Last February, we reported on the Naro, a two-seat tandem concept vehicle co-designed by Coventry University's Art & Design department and British motorsport company Prodrive. It turns out that Prodrive has been doing more than just imagining narrow vehicles, they've started making them. The Tango is a two-seat tandem electric vehicle moving from test car to production. It's small enough that it can perpendicular park in a parallel parking space, roomy enough for a driver over 6', and can go from 0 to 60 in four seconds.
As that acceleration statistic suggests, the performance of the Tango is impressive for an electric. Its top speed is about 150 miles per hour, with a range of 60-80 miles. Auto enthusiasts will undoubtedly drool over the component specs -- Prodrive makes serious performance equipment as its main business -- and the rest of us will recoil at the price: $85,000. They do plan to make a couple of cheaper models, with appropriately lower performance; the lowest-cost one is targeted to be about $18,500.
What justifies a price like that? Safety. Prodrive has designed the Tango to meet not just the standard vehicle safety requirements, but also the safety requirements of the SCCA and NHRA -- two of the big racing car associations. The Tango's passenger cage is designed to withstand an impact at 200 miles per hour. The racing car-level safety is one performance aspect Prodrive intends to include in all versions of the Tango.
Safety is a big deal with small car designers right now. Green Car Congress has a detailed report on Pininfarina's efforts to design chassis for ultra-compact cars able to withstand full-speed impacts from trucks. The results have been impressive -- simulations suggest that the absorption and redirection of front impact energy could be enough to make airbags unnecessary.
This isn't the approach Prodrive is using, but that's good -- the more ways designers come up with to make certain that small car passengers are secure, the more people will feel comfortable getting in one.
(Tango via Hippyshopper)