Highlights: July 2014

New Consumer Friendly Website Compares Costs for Plug-in Electric Vehicles- "EV Explorer"

New Consumer Friendly Website Compares Costs for Plug-in Electric Vehicles- "EV Explorer"

By: Joseph Bustos

Buying a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) can be challenging, with so many factors and vehicles to consider. The UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis) and the team at the Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center are helping consumers sift through the options with a new website, EV Explorer, which allows prospective buyers to see how a PEV might fit into their lives, and how vehicles stack up against each other.

“It helps answer the question: ‘Which car makes sense for me?" said lead researcher Michael Nicholas of the UC Davis Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center.

EV Explorer utilizes  fueleconomy.gov's database of more than 34,000 vehicles in conjunction with Google Maps to allow users to compare commuting costs of a PEV with those of any other vehicle. Through a step-by-step process, users select a start location and a destination, and specify how often they travel between those points. A chart is then produced that shows the annual gasoline and electricity fuel costs of the commute.

“For consumers, deciding which car makes sense can be challenging -- everyone’s driving needs vary and vehicles perform in different ways,” Nicholas explains. “With plug-in hybrids, for example, two fuels – electricity and gasoline -- power the car, and different plug-in hybrid vehicle designs require different charging and gasoline-fueling solutions.”

The EV Explorer is designed with flexibility in mind. Users can change the vehicles to compare frequency of travel, estimated miles per gallon, price of gasoline and electricity, and many other variables in order to create side-by-side comparisons of up to four vehicles.

Future versions of the website aim to calculate not only the personal costs of commuting in a PEV, but the lifetime costs of ownership by factoring in retail prices and insurance rates, and by accumulating trips and different routes.

The EV Explorer project was conceived as a UC Davis project to provide charger planning tools for Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), which are responsible for transportation planning in the nation’s metropolitan areas. After conducting interviews, it became clear that they desired not only tools to plan EV infrastructure, but also ones that their constituents could utilize directly. The EV Explorer project is funded by the California Energy Commission in association with the California Center for Sustainable Communities.

EV Explorer represents a foray by ITS-Davis into consumer-oriented tools.

“For years we’ve been known for our independent academic research,” said Nicholas. “Now, EV Explorer lets people do their own investigation. We’re excited to see where it goes and hope it will further acquaint everyone with the innovative work we’re doing.”

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