Is a Plug-in Car Right for You? The EV Explorer Will Help You Find Out

Electric cars are quiet, easy to drive, and extremely cheap to run. What’s more, they have an uncanny ability to make anyone driving them for the first time grin from ear to ear, a phenomenon known by advocates and industry insiders as the EVGrin.

Is an electric car right for you? This neat app from UC Davis can help you find out.

Is an electric car right for you? This neat app from UC Davis can help you find out.

But while all of the above might be true, it’s not always easy to figure out how well an electric car might fit with your lifestyle. How do you know for example, that your daily driving requirements really will be met by any of the electric cars on the market today?

Although most mainstream electric automakers have fairly crude means of helping you figure out how far you can drive in a day — namely a circle on a map corresponding to the official mileage rating for their car — a new web app from UC Davis will help you figure out your electric car requirements in a few clicks.

Built on top of the robust Google Map platform, the web app asks you where you live and then asks you the address of your workplace. It then plots your most likely route to work and not only checks to see if your daily round-trip to work is within range of an electric car, but also compares the price of driving electric versus gasoline.

In its default mode, the app compares the cost of driving to and from work in a 2014 Honda Civic, a 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, a 2014 BMW i3 REx, and an all-electric 2014 Mitsubishi i-Miev. It also assumes a regular gasoline price of $3.8 per gallon, and a home electricity price of 14 cents per kilowatt-hour.

You’ll be pleased to know however that you can both modify the cars you’re trying to compare as well as the prices you pay for gasoline and electricity.

You can choose which cars you're comparing on your daily commute.

You can choose which cars you’re comparing on your daily commute.

Being a U.S.-centric web app, the figures given are in U.S. dollars, while the fuel economy figures are pulled directly from the EPA’s official fuel economy website.

If you’re a European — or a neighbor to the North of the U.S. — you can convert the price you pay for gasoline from price per litre to price per U.S. gallon by multiplying your pump price by 3.78. (Note: UK, or imperial gallons are a different size to U.S. gallons, but you’ll need to use U.S. gallons for this app or manually modify the MPG of each car — something you can also do) 

In addition, the app also enables you to input any work-based charging you may have, detailing how many hours your car will be charging — as well as any costs associated.

Of course, the app isn’t flawless. For example, the app doesn’t take into consideration any diversions you may make every day to run small errands, although you can easily add regular trips to your tally by changing the interval that you’re likely to make the trip.

Secondly, the app isn’t terrain-aware. Depending on where you live and the route you take, that may or may not impact the outcome of the calculator. For example, near us, there are some pretty large hills which can massively reduce range, yet the app doesn’t take their effect into account.

For a rough idea though, we think the app is pretty neat and useful, especially when you tie it in with a charger-finding app like PlugShare or the OpenChargeMap.

Give it a go — and let us know what you think of it in the Comments below.

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