University of Minnesota energy economist, Douglas Tiffany, has created a free on-line tool to assist people in choosing what vehicle they should be driving to minimize their expenses subject to their driving desires and lifestyles and interest in reducing greenhouse gases.

Dr. Tiffany wants to help people decide for themselves which costs less over the long run: a hybrid car or an electric car or a gas powered car?

His tool compares conventional gasoline-powered cars, hybrids, electric cars and extended-range electrics (which have small gasoline engines to go with their electric motors).

Often, a hybrid or electric vehicle will cost more off the lot, Tiffany said. But with his tool, people can look at the expected 15-year life of a car and figure out the total costs of such things as maintenance and fuel, he said.

The spreadsheet allows users to plug in how much they expect to drive each year, comparable prices of models they’re considering, rebates for electric vehicles, if any, and – a real wild card – what they expect prices will be for gas and electricity in their area.

A good rule of thumb is that if you expect to drive a lot every year, a hybrid or electric car becomes a better deal, the economist said.

If you don’t drive a lot, a conventional car actually might be more economical.

In a hypothetical model already created at the site, it takes about eight years for the cost of a hybrid or EV to break even with a conventional gasoline powered car, but Tiffany wants users to play around with the variables to see how their lifestyle differs from the model..


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