Tango Electric Car: The Lane Splitter

Tango electric car

It's small, but I wouldn't be too quick to judge the Tango electric car by its size. This little powerhouse, made in Spokane, WA by Commuter Cars is definitely NOT a neighborhood electric car.  It's very unique.

Tangos have always been fast electric cars, but the latest version has four motors, one for each wheel, lithium batteries, and 805 hp. 

I got a chance to chat with the builder of the Tango, Rick Woodbury, about the new features and the unusual battery wiring.

tango laneshare

Features of the Tango

  • 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. Yep, quicker than the famous Tesla Roadster.  Actually, quicker than all the Tesla family except the Model S P85 (and up) in Ludicrous Mode.  And if you've still got your stomach with you after those three point two seconds are up, you'll finish the standing quarter mile before you even started. Possibly.
  • Steel roll cage like a race car. Since the Tango is designed to run on the freeway, and is small, you'll want the best protection you can get in the event of a high-speed, low-mass collision - a roll cage.  Serious safety.
  • 80 mile range. You can charge it in 3 hours, too, using the dryer plug-in at home.  Not bad.

What does the Tango electric car look like?

Luxurious...and also tall, skinny, and compact. The designers of the Tango wanted to solve several auto-related (or traffic-related) problems at once, so they made a car that was narrow enough to "lane-split", tall enough to be comfortable for an average-sized commuter (and a passenger) with battery storage under the floor, and compact enough to park perpendicular to the curb.

Lane-splitting. This just means they can run side by side in a freeway lane like a motorcycle; in fact, the Tango is narrower than those big Gold Wing bikes. Not that it's legal to "lane-split" in every state, of course...but it probably should be. It's legal in California, and other states are working on it.

Tall. George and his Tango electric car are pretty much of a size...and this is so that you can put George inside, and a passenger, and still have room for batteries under the floor. Don't let the top-heavy appearance fool you, though - because the batteries are down below, the Tango is very stable, earning an equivalent 5-star rollover rating.

  • It's short-coupled, so you can park it nose-in to the curb. For those of us who are parallel-parking impaired (me), this is a blessing. Saves time, too.

  • Luxurious on the inside. The Tango has a high-tech and glossy interior. The appointments all appear to be top of the line.
  • You can park it in those tiny little motorcycle spots. You know, the ones close to the door; ) And for those of us who are ferry commuters (me again), you take up less space in your Tango, so they put you in the motorcycle row.

  • Interview with the Tango's Builder

    rick and tango

    Rick Woodbury, president of Commuter Cars in Spokane that builds the Tango electric car, talked with me a little about the newest version of the Tango, and some of the unusual features of the car.

    Lynne: Rick, am I understanding you right that there is a 9" ADC motor on each one of the wheels? Four motors?

    Rick: Yes, that is correct. The T600 that we're selling now has 2 motors, but the newest version will have 4 motors, like the one you can see on our page at the EV Photo Album.

    Where are the motors mounted?

    tango motor

    Here's a photo.

    There are typically 3.86:1 gears between the motors and the axles with massive gears. We've recently switched to 3:1 gearing. Actually any gear ratio from 3:1 to 5:1 can be ordered, but anything over 3:1 costs time in the 1/4 mile. The torque is so great, over 3,000 ft lbs, that it can lift the front wheels of the 3,326-lb Tango off the ground easily with the 3:1 ratio.

    Are there 4 controllers as well, or just the one controller?

    Just 1 Zilla Z2K controller. 600 kW or 805 hp seems to be plenty to smoke a Tesla or just about any other car.

    I'm not sure I'm understanding how you have the batteries wired. You've got 10AH cells, so you wired 10 of them in parallel groups for 100AH, then wired 10 groups in series for 320 volts?

    Yes. Here a photo of a module. There are 12 of them in the Tango, 8 with 90 cells 9S10P, and 4 with 70 cells 7S10P. That makes 1,000 cells total at 320V nominal and 32 kWhrs...

    ...and here's how they install in the Tango with BMS boards on top of each module.

    Have you changed anything in the last year or so (I think the date was 2009 on your EV Photo Album page) as far as battery cells or motors?

    Motors haven't changed, however the gear ratio has. We are developing a 60+ kWhr pack as well that will give a range of over 200 miles. For now we are delivering the Headway 32 kWhr packs in all of the Tangos.

    We have changed the suspension to rubber mounts for a much quieter and softer ride, upgraded the BMS substantially with lots of safety redundancy, and improved parking brake and much more.

    Are these just prototypes, or can a person actually buy one of your cars right now?

    The two-motor T600 is available, and we sell them as we get orders, you can just give us a call.

    Thank you, Rick!

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