New Zealand Man Thinks It Takes Two to Tango, And That’s Perfect For Auckland

Long before the Nissan LEAF, the Chevrolet Volt, or even the Tesla Roadster, Commuter Cars, a small company in Spokane, Washington, was promoting its own electrified pocket rocket: the Tango EV. Less than one meter (39 inches) wide — thinner than some motorcycles — the Tango T600 EV boasts a 0-60mph  time of just 3.4 seconds, a top speed in excess of 150 mph. It seats two in a tandem one-behind-the-other style, and even has a fairly notable list of current and former owners, including actor George Clooney and Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Tha CommuterCars Tango EV -- in all its lane-splitting glory. We love it.

Tha CommuterCars Tango EV — in all its lane-splitting glory. We love it.

Historically, the Tango’s unusual design and six-figure high sticker price have put many buyers off this unique and fun-to-drive EV, but now a New Zealand businessman wants Auckland Council to buy 15,000 Tango EVs to help beat pollution and congestion.

Enter Toa Greenig, the founder of Project Microcar, a campaign to get New Zealanders out of their gas-guzzling full-size cars and into something a little more suited to single-occupant daily commutes. After experiencing the Tango EV first hand in the U.S., Toa became a convert that the unusual electric car could dramatically cut down congestion.

For those unfamiliar with the Tango, here’s why, along with Jay Leno’s review of the Tango EV in his world-famous garage.

Because of its narrow width, the Tango is able to split lanes in certain U.S. states just like a motorcycle can, allowing two Tangos to travel side-by-side in a single lane. With a safety cage inspired by NASCAR racing cockpits and an extremely low centre of gravity, Tangos are also far more safe and stable than a motorcycle. What’s more, because they drive like a car and contain all the usual things you’d expect a car to have — like a radio, heating, and luggage space — anyone with a driving license can drive one.

As Stuff reports, Greenig is keen to cite a Belgian study which detailed how a 2.5 percent shift from cars to motorcycles for the daily commute eliminated traffic congestion completely. The challenge is not everyone wants a motorcycle, he says, and the Tango is the perfect solution.

His proposal to Auckland council involves the purchase of 15,000 Tango EVs from the U.S. for leasing out to local residents at the princely sum of $55 NZ per week. That’s about $45U.S, £28 or €33 per week.  With current New Zealand gas prices around $2.15 N.Z. per litre and 300 kilometers of Tango driving costing about $15 N.Z. in electricity at current prices, Greenig hopes his proposal will be met with approval.

The real challenge? Getting the local government to stump up the cash, an estimated $435 million N.Z. to make the project a reality. For now however, Greenig has a smaller goal: approval for a $1 million N.Z., smaller-scale test fleet in Auckland to prove his idea has the potential to change New Zealand’s congested roads forever.

The Tango EV is certainly NOT a Twizy, but are New Zealand commuters going to fall in love with it?

The Tango EV is certainly NOT a Twizy, but are New Zealand commuters going to fall in love with it?

We’ve got to admire Greenig’s resolve, but we’re not sure the Tango in its current form — including that six-figure price tag — is quite the ideal vehicle for this particular use.  What isn’t clear at this time however is if Greenig’s proposal will eventually use the Tango EV’s lower-powered sibling, the T200, instead of the tire-smoking T600 favored by all Tango’s big name customers.

Here in Europe, we’ve of course got our own answer to heavily congested streets courtesy of the Renault Twizy, a no-frills scooter substitute aimed at hip urbanites who don’t need a full-size car but need some form of safe, affordable electric motoring.

Like the Tango, it too employs a narrow wheelbase and tandem seating, and is powered by a much less powerful electric motor for a designed top speed of either 28 mph or 51 mph, depending on the model you buy.

Yet three years after it initially launched, Twizy sales are slowly dropping, thanks in part we think to its complete lack of creature comforts. Despite all of this however, we think Renault and Tango are on to something: single or tandem-seated cars have the potential to revolutionise our city centres and our daily commutes.

But what’s the best design? What’s the perfect mix of power, comfort, range and price? And would you consider buying either a Tango or a Twizy if they ticked all your boxes for the daily commute?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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