Ask Nathan: Toyota Electric Minivan, Transmission Battle and TFL Projects?

This is what I thought the Toyota electric minivan would look like. This is a 2017 Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride concept. It’s hydrogen electric, and not meant for production. A Toyota electric minivan will look more conventional than this. (Image: Toyota)

In this week’s Ask Nathan:

  • Is a Toyota electric minivan coming?
  • What transmission is best? 
  • What happens to TFL projects? 

The first question comes from a Toyota fan who wants to know if a Toyota electric van is on its way. 

Image: Toyota

Q:  Such a fan! So Toyota is going to make hybrid minivans. That’s great! My 2011 Sienna has almost 200,000 miles on it. I wonder what if there will be a Toyota electric minivan coming soon.

It’s the perfect platform for a EV if you think about it. Look at what Chrysler did with the Pacifica plug in! I know Toyota can build something like this and it would be the ultimate taxi cab. 

So far no one has built or says they will build an electric minivan. I think Toyota should be the first. Do you agree Nathan? 


This is an upcoming Toyota electric minivan. (Image: Toyota)

A: Hi Bellatrix! 

About a year ago, Toyota announced that they would begin building BEV (battery electric vehicles) for world consumption as of this year. They displayed six models, including what they called a medium minivan. The other vehicles ranged from small, personal transports to crossovers. 

On some of these BEVs, Toyota is partnering-up with Subaru, Suzuki and Daihatsu. If you look at the lower left corner, you’ll see a “Medium minivan.” (Image: Toyota)

We have no information on production dates, range, power or any technical information. With the delays caused by the COVID-19 crisis, it could be pushed back a year or so as well. 

You can read more about the six EVs (here). 

We do know that there will be a e-TNGA platform underpinning all of these vehicles, including the minivan. 

Judging by the various layouts seen here illustrating how these EV power-trains will work, the Toyota electric minivan may have an all-wheel drive option. 

It’s a shame we can’t get an individual image of the Toyota electric minivan. We should be getting updated information soon. (Image: Toyota)

One final thought about this: Toyota has created a bunch of partnerships with battery makers worldwide. Companies like Panasonic, Toshiba, BYD and others are in the mix. They seem to be very serious about building these vehicles. 

— N

The next question comes from a fan who has a question about transmissions. 

This is an older Nissan Altima CVT (Photo: Nissan)

Q: Hi TFL boys! I have a transmission question. 

Love you guys and Nathan, you make me laugh and think. Kind of like my old man used to do. Not that you’re THAT old!

I know you guys are not into CVTs, but if you had to get a car with great gas mileage, which would you prefer? I’m looking at a bunch of cars and it’s like a battle of transmissions for me. I have to get a car that the whole family can drive, so a manual is kind of my last choices. Look man, I don’t want to teach my teen how to drive stick. I’m afraid my 70- year old mother would grind the gears too! 

I’m thinking about something with an automatic or CVT. It has to be a solid car that can get everyone anywhere with NO HIGH PERFORMANCE! Sure I would love a fun car. But this isn’t going to happen. 

Basically I need a front drive car with great gas mileage that is comfortable for four and has a quality ride. I can’t do an EV or an SUV, I like gas sedans. My budget is about $30,000. 

Thanks my friends! 
Palmdale, CA 
2018 honda accord turbo toyota camry
(Image: TFLcar) 

A: Thanks for the email Gustavo! 

There are a ton of vehicles in your price bracket. The two top cars are the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Both have decent power with their 4-cylinder engines, tons of space and can be well optioned for well under $30,000. The Camry has an eight-speed automatic transmission, while the Accord has a CVT.

Honestly, it’s a question of taste with both. You need to drive them back-to-back.  

There are some other choices too. I am a huge fan of the Mazda6. Even the less powerful Mazda6 with the base 4-cylinder engine is a treat. I like the way it handles and it’s overall design. It has a six-speed auto, but it works great.

Also, the Hyundai Sonata is impressive – and it has the best warranty out there. It has an eight-speed auto and excellent driving dynamics. The Nissan Altima is a contender as well. It has a CVT and it comes with a ton of tech for the money. 

Each one brings its own strengths to the game. The safe bet is the Camry and Accord. If resale value is important to you, these vehicles are at the top of the heap. 

I know it’s a pain, but you need to test drive these vehicles back-to-back (if possible) to see which one fills the bill. Some dealers may be willing to do a touch-free delivery of the vehicle to your residence. You can bring the family with and rotate driving. Keep a score card and check off the pros and cons of each. 

After a few drives, you guys will know what feels right. 

As for different transmissions? I have no issues with continuously variable transmissions in commuter cars. Over the past few years, automakers have made CVTs much more user-friendly. They are lighter and less complicated than automatic and dual-clutch transmissions, most are pretty good for mpg too.

Honestly, nowadays my only issue with CVTs is that they kind of sap fun from some vehicles. That’s just me, I need to be entertained a bit when driving. As commuters go, they are now perfectly fine.  

I hope this helps! 


The last question is from a fan who’s curious about the future of TFL project vehicles. 

VW Touareg Porsche Cayenne Turbo

Q: (Via: NathanAdlen@Twitter) Question for TFL group.

What do you do with all of your project vehicles when you’re done? I know you sell some. But all of them? Do you do anything else with them? 



Some of our project vehicles, like my Suzuki Samurai and Andre’s H2 are too good to give up. (Image: TFLcar)

A: Thanks for the question Beck! 

Three things tend to happen to our project vehicles. In most cases, we sell them when we’re finished with their video run.  Some vehicles are more popular than others and we may keep shooting them for a longer period of time. Eventually, they finish their run and are sold off.

Some vehicles will be auctioned off to charity like our project Gunsmoke. Truly enjoy this option as all of the proceeds from the sale go directly to the charity. Unfortunately,  we don’t have the budget to do this all the time. Still, I’m pleased we can do it from time-to-time. 

The final options is: we buy them off the studio to keep for ourselves. A few years ago, Andre bought his beloved Hummer H2 and about a year back, I bought the Suzuki Samurai. Both of these vehicles finished their video runs and were going to be sold off. Andre and I weren’t willing to let these trucks go. 

We have new projects coming in all the time. Right now, Roman and Tommy are on some sort of MINI craze – we have a bunch. We also have an old Subaru, SAAB convertible and a Smart EV (among others). I guarantee you, in a few months, we will have other unusual vehicles in our fleet replacing some of these.  



Speaking of project Gunsmoke…