Spawned from a thought-provoking question, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s (VTTI) Center for Sustainable Mobility Director Hesham Rakha has created an online tool that allows users to compare the cost of owning an internal combustion engine vehicle, also known as a gasoline-powered vehicle, against a battery electric vehicle that provides drivers or these vehicles insights into how they can save time and money and protect the environment.

“After finding no tool available to the public, I wanted to create a tool that anyone can use to determine where a gasoline-powered vehicle or a battery electric vehicle is best for them financially,” said Rakha, the Samuel Reynolds Pritchard Professor of Engineering.

The Cost Comparison Tool allows users to compare operational costs of owning a standard vehicle to an electric vehicle. By analyzing yearly mileage, electricity cost, the Environmental Protection Agency-rated miles per gallon, loan interest rate, loan duration, and price, the tool displays a chart of years and gas prices that shows the user the cost of operating a traditional vehicle versus an electric vehicle.

Chart displaying the results of the cost comparison tool
The graph displays the calculations of the cost comparison tool. Red cells indicate negative values and green cells indicate positive values.

With data from AAA, Rakha alongside his VTTI colleague Mohamed Farag first developed this tool in an Excel sheet, then open-sourced it on the internet for all to use.

Rakha plans to expand this tool to include maintenance costs associated with owning a battery electric vehicle, including cost of battery and technology replacements and variables such as different routes and energy versus fuel consumption.

For example, while traveling in a gasoline-powered vehicle on a highway saves fuel as compared to driving in an urban environment, it is the opposite for battery electric vehicles. Driving at higher speeds causes the vehicle to use more of its battery energy.

“Low speeds of around 15 miles per hour are actually the optimal speed for electric vehicles, where it's around 55 miles an hour for a gasoline vehicle, and so it becomes conflicting,” said Rakha. “If you want to try to minimize travel time, you will increase your energy consumption for electric vehicles. This is less of an issue for gasoline vehicles.”

The current state of the tool and its future expansion of the tool will help to not only inform users of the costs of owning a vehicle, but also ensure they are saving money and make financially responsible decisions.

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