Nissan Leaf / Scion TC
Nissan has taken the vanguard position in the EV (electric vehicle) world by introducing and promoting its Leaf battery electric vehicle. This is the first vehicle of its kind offered in our market and there will be many more to follow.
To review, in recent history we’ve gone from gasoline and diesel powered internal combustion engines to hybrids, to plug-in hybrids, to battery electric cars.
Traditional vehicles operate with an engine that generates power by burning fuels such as gasoline or diesel. They are fairly efficient and the fuel is readily available, but the fuel also pollutes when burned and is a non-renewable resource that wars have been fought over. Electric motors are very simple mechanisms and are extremely efficient. In industrial settings, electric motors run for decades with very little maintenance. With electric cars, there are no transmissions, oil changes, radiators, coolant, spark plugs, fuel injectors, gas tanks, trips to the gas station, smells, leaks, over heating and there isn’t even a tail pipe for the non-existent exhaust to come out.
Electric motors require electricity to run, and therefore the car needs to carry a store of electricity onboard the same way we carry a tank full of gas for gasoline engines. Hence, a battery replaces a gas tank on electric cars. The greater the battery capacity, the further you can go between recharges. Battery technology is developing rapidly so they’ll get smaller, lighter, cheaper and have greater storage capacity in the future.
The new Leaf offers the best balance of vehicle size, vehicle performance, range and price.
The Leaf is a very pleasant, upscale compact sedan with a hatch. The styling is appealing and it looks like other vehicles in its class. The interior is comfortable and spacious and the appointments are very nice indeed. The Leaf has a digital dashboard, air conditioning as standard equipment plus a navigation/in- formation system. It drives well, handles nicely, and is quiet and comfortable. The Leaf is a compact sedan that happens to be powered by an electric motor instead of a gas engine.
To drive the Leaf you get in, turn the key, put it in “D” for drive and step on the accelerator pedal (not “gas” pedal) to go and brake pedal to stop. It motors around in city traffic easily and is comfortable cruising on the freeway.
The Leaf has a range of about 100 miles, which is more than about 80 percent of the population drives in a day. Normally, when you get home you plug the car in to keep the battery topped off. It plugs into standard household electrical socket and charges in about 6 hours. The average cost of electricity to fully charge a battery is in the $1.50 to $2.50 range depending on where you live and the time of day the charging takes place.
The Nissan Leaf is a very appealing vehicle. It will be an attractive choice for buyers, especially in urban areas. With a base price of $32,000 and a federal tax credit of $7,500 plus any additional state incentives, it becomes a very solid, new alternative for many buyers.
Scion, the young-at-heart arm of Toyota, just introduced a new version of its tC. The tC is Toyota’s very popular two-door hatch coupe. I describe it as a high quality, yet simple machine with superb reliability. The fact that it’s also stylish and fun to drive adds to the appeal.
Scion describes its approach to the tC as selling a blank canvas buyers can personalize by choosing from the more than 45 accessories offered by the dealer.
The new tC follows the same theme and improves and expands upon it. Though familiar and similar in many ways, the new tC possesses many improvements. The car is about the same size but the styling is now crisper and more angular. The sweeping curves have become straight lines and angles.
The new tC is now powered by a 180 horsepower, 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine. Buyers can choose from either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission. Seventy percent or more will choose the automatic with its improved drivability and 31 EPA highway fuel economy rating.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, keyless remote locks, tilt/telescope steering wheel, power locks and windows, cruise control and sport front bucket seats. The standard flat bottom steering wheel now houses audio controls. A two-panel panorama sunroof is also standard. Three audio systems are available, but even the base unit is a 300-watt monster lifted from the Lexus LS luxury sedan.
Likewise, safety systems have also been beefed up. Standard equipment includes 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, traction control, stability control, brake force distribution, brake assist and a complete suite of airbags plus front knee bags for the driver and passenger.
The press preview was held in Austin and we invited a couple of young, single guys who were checking out the cars to ride along as we tested the car. Both were very familiar with the past tC and both were very impressed with the new one. They spoke highly of it and gave it the thumbs up.
The new tC is still totally relevant and offers the same compelling advantages as before. For the younger buyer it’s still a very cool, configurable car. For others, the value proposition is powerful and the fact that it happens to be cool too doesn’t hurt.
Visit www.MyCarData.com for more information on these models.