Have you ever been stuck in traffic and envied the motorcyclist who can ride between lanes? It would be nice to be able to do that, but motorcycles are not for everyone. They can tip over rather easily, and don’t protect riders from the elements. On the other hand, they are quite efficient at transporting one or two people from point A to point B.
Rick Woodbury gave this considerable thought back in the late ‘90s and came up with a solution – a battery electric vehicle he describes as combining the speed and agility of a motorcycle with the stability, maneuverability and safety of a high-performance sports car.
I met Rick at the Michigan International Speedway during the final stage of the Progressive Automotive X-Prize competition, where his team, Commuter Cars Corp., and his vehicle, Tango, is competing in the alternative/tandem category for $2.5 million in prize money.
The Tango looks small from the outside, but Woodbury says it can accommodate a couple of NBA-size occupants. It looks as if it might tip over in a breeze, but Woodbury says that’s unlikely considering its low center of gravity. There’s nearly a ton of mostly battery weight below the floor. Also, occupants are protected by a NASCAR-quality roll cage.
The Tango comes with a high-end Alpine sound system, but you’d expect that in a car that costs $150,000. That’s a hefty price tag for a commuter vehicle, but Woodbury estimates that with a capital investment of $150 million his firm could set up a factory to crank out 30,000 Tangos in two years and sell them at less than $30,000.
Woodbury has faced a lot of skepticism, but he is the poster guy for perseverance. He pictures crowded cities where four fun-to-drive Tangos could angle-park in space normally occupied by one normal-sized vehicle, and freeways that could handle twice the traffic if everyone drove Tangos. Unrealistic? Who’s to say?
“Kids love it,” Woodbury says, and kids are the future. Check out the photos at http://commutercars.com and let me know what you think.