Is a plug-in electric vehicle a good choice for you and your wallet, or are you better off with a hybrid or a tried-and-true sedan that takes regular unleaded?

 
The University of California, Davis Institute of Transportation Studies has developed an online tool called EV Explorer that aims to make that tough choice at least a little bit easier.
 
Simply add a starting address and ending destination, and EV Explorer makes a bar graph comparing the total annual vehicle energy costs of as many as four vehicles simultaneously. So let’s say you drive once a month from the California State Capitol in Sacramento to Los Angeles City Hall. The online calculator says it would cost $1,060 in energy to drive a 2014 Honda Civic, $696 in a Toyota Prius Plug-In, and $969 in a Chevy Volt.
 
“For consumers, deciding which car makes sense can be challenging — everyone’s driving needs vary and vehicles perform in different ways,” lead researcher Michael Nicholas said. “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 user can customize a range of inputs in the calculator, such as the frequency of travel, the presence of a charging station at your destination, and the price of gasoline or electricity, Users may also compare any of the 34,000 vehicles available at fueleconomy.gov.
 
EV Explorer is a rare consumer-focused tool developed at the institute, which primarily focuses on applications for research and scientific purposes. Funding came from the California Energy Commission.
 
California continues to be the nation’s leading market for alternative fuel vehicles. According to a recently released ranking of clean-tech activity in the 50 states, California was found to have the most hybrid electric vehicles per capita of any state, and more than 680,000 registered HEV cars in all. In Santa Clara County, more than 10 percent of new vehicles sales reportedly are plug-in vehicles.
 
This story was originally published by TechWire