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Orange squash: the world’s fastest electric filing cabinet

  1. It might be a typically sunny afternoon in LA, but the
    drivers in SoCal’s biggest city are in an uncharacteristically foul mood.
    Squashed into the back of what feels like a motorised filing cabinet filled
    with more static than Dixons on Christmas Eve, I can’t see very much of what’s
    happening ahead. But I can see plenty of what’s going on either side, and it
    ain’t pretty.

    A candy-floss-coiffured old dear wearing pearls and bifocals
    in a gold Honda Civic is giving me, or rather the vehicle I’m riding in, the
    finger. And a heavily tattooed Mexican with slicked-back hair in a Toyota
    pickup is also visibly upset. What’s that he’s saying? “[Something very rude]” Oh, yes.
     That.

    Words: Pat Devereux

    This article was originally published in the December issue of Top Gear magazine

  2. The cause of all this outpouring of vile language is a
    sunburst orange Tango T600, a bizarre, do-not-adjust-your-TV, two-seat, tandem,
    electric vehicle. The reason it’s causing so much upset is that, rather than
    following the lines of traffic up La Cienega Boulevard towards Sunset, Rick
    Woodbury, the thing’s designer, builder and marketer, is demonstrating the
    39in-wide EV’s ability to split lanes like a motorcycle. And, even though it
    might be legal to do so in California, the other drivers have got a major
    problem with being Tango-ed.

  3. To be honest, I’m not exactly thrilled with the situation
    either. It’s always a risk to drive a car built by someone in his shed. But
    those risks rise exponentially when you are only a passenger. Particularly if
    the creator has racing aspirations, a nervous laugh and is hell-bent on
    demonstrating his new vehicle’s ability to shred preconceptions. Like Rick.

    “Ha,” he says as horns blare all around us. “Look at that,
    everyone loves this car.” I’m just about to lean forward and point out that,
    er, it might be otherwise, when Rick throws the Tango violently left and right
    through the traffic and I slam against the sides of the car. I resolve to tell
    him at the end of this hairy test ride instead.

  4. Which arrives, as in pretty much every electric car test
    these days, rather sooner than the manufacturer intended. But not before Rick
    has demonstrated this 5ft tall and narrow 1,497kg vehicle’s patented ability to
    corner savagely without falling over. Something that, after a few
    wheel-in-the-air, heart-in-the-mouth moments, I was not entirely convinced
    about, patent or no patent.

    But maybe that’s just me. George Clooney had one for a
    couple of years and is still in one piece. Also, Google mentors Sergey Brin and
    Larry Page have one each, following Rick’s demo at the Googleplex, and are
    still with us for the moment. So there must be more to the T600’s appeal than
    just its narrow width. And sure enough, there is: power. A huge, almost
    comedic, amount of power and torque.

  5. Despite being just two-and-a-half-metres long, the Tango
    T600 packs a punch that’s equivalent to most 40ft 16-wheeler trucks: 805bhp and
    1,000lb ft of torque. Even with the weight of the batteries taken into consideration,
    the Tango is more than merely fast. It’s properly quick. With the right
    drivetrain and battery pack combo in place - more about those in a minute - the
    Tango can hit 60mph in four seconds and cover a quarter mile in 12 seconds.

    The battery and electric motor options start with a 10kWh
    lead-acid battery pack that gives about 40 miles range between plug-ins, and
    rise up to a hairy chested 49kWh lithium-ion power pack that will yield around
    200 miles of range. Electric motor options begin with the standard nine-inch
    motors and rise to a custom unit built by AC Propulsion.

  6. Why wouldn’t everyone just go ahead and fit the best motor
    and battery unit? Price, that’s why. The basic T600, with the boggo nine-inch
    motors but no battery pack, costs - wait for it - $108,000. The cheapest
    battery pack to date costs another $8,000. But if you want the big fella, you
    are looking at handing over another $55,000. Yes, just for the battery. Which
    brings the total on-the-road price to a somewhat impossible-to-justify
     $163,000.

    In the Tango’s defence, it’s a lot better-equipped than you
    might expect. All of the bodywork is made from carbon fibre. The interior is
    cocooned in Alcantara. The seats and four-point harnesses are by Sparco, the
    steering wheel by Momo, the electric dash by MoTec. There’s a 400W Alpine sound
    system complete with GPS and a reversing camera. So it’s all quality kit.

  7. Not so much the chassis and upper structure of the car,
    though. It might feature a race-style roll cage and have four-bar side-door
    protection, to stop that inevitable jacked-up Hummer from flattening you into
    the street like a bug when you zig when you should have zagged. But there’s not
    much to write home about otherwise. Apart from the fact that the 227kg battery
    pack slung under the T600 is entirely unsprung.

    This, as you might imagine with just four inches of ground
    clearance, ultra short-travel suspension front and rear, plus tiny 10-inch
    wheels, gives a ride quality that’s no stranger to the word appalling. It’s not
    something Rick’s terribly proud of, but he says he tried several ways of
    suspending the pack but then ran out of patience. “I know it rides like s***,”
    he says candidly. “But s***’* better than stuck in traffic, isn’t it?”

  8. Well, yes and no. As much as I wanted to finish this story
    with the line ‘The future’s bright, the future’s orange’, I can’t. I admire the
    left-field thinking that has gone into the Tango, but it doesn’t really work
    for LA yet, and not just because people plainly hate lane-splitting cars. It’s
    also because the T600 has to be built from a kit, charged from an elusive
    plug-in station and, the final nail in the coffin, you can buy a
    lane-splitting, infinitely better-looking Ducati 1198 for a tenth of the price.

    So, unless I missed something, for all its enormous power
    and ferocious acceleration, this is one Tango I’ll be sitting out.

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