Will a Plug-in Electric Vehicle Save You Money?

Ladies and gentlemen: Start your chargers!

Wondering whether a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) could save you money? Check out the UC Davis EV  Explorer, a cutting edge web-based tool that helps consumers see if a plug-in electric vehicle is right for them.

Designed by the team at Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center (PH&EV) of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California Davis (ITS-Davis), EV Explorer allows consumers to compare simultaneously up to four different vehicles on an energy cost basis. Just enter your start and finish commute locations and frequency of travel, and the yearly energy costs for the four vehicles will instantly appear side-by-side. You can even specify the location of a public charging station you use and its charging price to get an accurate cost for public charger use.

Moreover, the user-friendly EV Explorer also works with all types of vehicles—PEVs, hybrids, and traditional gasoline vehicles. With the tool, you can calculate the annual gasoline and electricity fuel costs of your commute or other travel in an easy-to-use chart that you can share with your friends.

To date, most products developed by the PH&EV Research Center have been for use by researchers and in scientific applications. But here at ITS-Davis we’ve enjoyed creating a tool that’s useful for everyone, and even learned a few truths about plug-ins ourselves. For example, the exact distance at which my older model hybrid Honda Insight actually beats a PEV is useful for examining my own vehicle needs. Since my commute was so short, I wanted to look at longer trips, a very easy process in the EV Explorer. I just dragged the blue marker to a new destination and changed the frequency.

EV Explorer inputs are endlessly customizable, designed to fit your charging and driving profile. You can personalize your inputs by:

  • Selecting the vehicles you would like to compare from any of the more than 34,000 available in the fueleconomy.gov database
  • Changing the frequency of travel
  • Dragging the destination marker to a new location
  • Adding charging at your destination
  • Changing the duration of charging
  • Changing the level of charging power
  • Changing the price of charging at your destination
  • Changing the miles per gallon (MPG) of your cars to match your own estimates
  • Changing electricity price at home
  • Changing the price of gasoline
  • Changing the time to fully charge (for example, you must do this for the Nissan LEAF if you have the charger upgrade package to 6.6kW)

EV Explorer is part of a California Energy Commission project designed to give tools to Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) for electric vehicles. MPOs are responsible for transportation planning in the nation’s metropolitan areas. When we interviewed MPO representatives, we discovered that they sought not only their own planning tools but also an easy-to-use tool for their constituents to make informed vehicle decisions in the context of their travel.

We invite you to visit the EV Explorer project home page for additional information to get the most out of EV Explorer. In order to optimize speed and usability, the product incorporates certain assumptions and limitations. So make sure that if you use the tool as part of your car-buying research, you check the inputs carefully and read the FAQ.

Even though it was designed for California and the United States, it can work anywhere in the world, by finding a close fuel economy match to any of the more than 34,000 vehicles in the fueleconomy.gov database and, of course, by converting to metric.

If you have any comments, feel free to leave them in the form found in the instructions. And enjoy using and getting the most out of the UC Davis EV Explorer!

Project Team:

Michael Nicholas, Gil Tal, Justin Woodjack,

Programming Team:

Daniel Scrivano, Sonali Dujari, Colin Cameron


We’d like to acknowledge different groups which helped make this tool possible.

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