All-electric vehicle

All-electric vehicle. Credit: Margaret Smith, DOE

With our current car making all sorts of “interesting” noises, my husband and I have been thinking long and hard about the type of vehicle to purchase in the near future. As I have a personal and professional interest in environmental and social sustainability, I would like to buy a vehicle that uses the least petroleum and emits the fewest greenhouse gases possible.

Fortunately, there is an abundance of alternative fuel and fuel efficient vehicles options available. Using the Alternative Fuel and Advanced Technology Vehicle Data Center’s (AFDC) Light Duty Vehicle Search, I can see all the flexible fuel (runs on gasoline or a blend of ethanol up to 85%), natural gas, hybrid, all-electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles offered. Some of these vehicles will meet my family’s needs better than others.

To make a well-informed decision, I need to think about how my husband and I currently use our car. As we walk, bike, and take public transit most places, we only drive about 5,000 miles a year. Although the large majority of our trips are short (to and from the subway), we would also like the ability to drive from D.C. to our hometown in upstate New York. Because we often wait until the gas tank is nearly empty to refuel, we need a vehicle that’s easy to fuel on short notice.

Thankfully, the AFDC can also help me match my needs to my ideal vehicle. I can see the fueling options available within 10 miles of my house by looking up my address on the Alternative Fueling Station Locator. Unfortunately, as there are a limited number of compressed natural gas and E85 stations nearby, those vehicles may not be the best fit for me. Narrowing down the options, I check out the AFDC’s Hybrid and Plug-in Electric Vehicles section. Although I enjoy riding in my mother’s hybrid, I’d like to take the next step further and drive much of the time on electricity. Charging at home would be very convenient and because I purchase 100 percent wind power from my utility, would produce a minimal amount of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. Looking at the page on all-electric vehicles, I see that most current all-electric vehicles have a range of about 100 miles. As we are a one-car family, that range would not accommodate all of our needs. However, a plug-in electric vehicle, with an all-electric range of 10 to 40 miles, would be perfect for us. We would be able to drive using electricity the large majority of the time, charge at home with renewable power, and yet refuel with gasoline on the longest trips.

So if you’re in the market for a new car and would like to know if an alternative fuel or advanced technology vehicle is the right choice for you, check out the tools on the AFDC. I know they helped me choose the right solution for my family.

You can also read more about vehicles and fuels in our Your Vehicle section, and see our tips for driving and car maintenance.

Shannon Brescher Shea is the communications coordinator for Clean Cities in the Vehicle Technologies Program of EERE.