Every day, people across America are making the choice to buy energy-efficient vehicles that save energy and money, protect the environment, and help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. The work we do at the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has played an important role in developing key technologies – such as innovative batteries – that are making possible the hybrids, electric vehicles, and other alternative fuel vehicles available to consumers and fleets today. These high-efficiency vehicles, and the people who own and operate them, are already cutting America’s demand for foreign oil and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.

To help people buy the efficient vehicles that are right for them, EERE recently launched a new Vehicle Cost Calculator and accompanying widget. These are easy-to-use tools that allow users to compare emissions and lifetime operating costs of specific vehicle models, including conventional cars and trucks, as well as vehicles running on alternative fuels such as electricity, ethanol, natural gas, or biodiesel. With the new calculator, which was developed by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), car shoppers, small business owners, and fleet managers can make side-by-side comparisons between thousands of conventional, electric-drive, and alternative fuel vehicles from model year 1996 and newer.

The calculator also lets users enter information such as driving habits, local ZIP code, price of fuel, and potential tax credits to personalize their results. The tool then presents a comparison of the selected models, displaying the total lifetime ownership costs of the vehicles and the breakdown of the lifetime operating costs between fuel and maintenance costs. It also calculates the operational cost per mile and greenhouse gas emissions over time for the vehicles. By helping potential buyers evaluate the long-term costs and benefits of various fuels and vehicle options now on the market, they can choose the vehicles and technologies that best suit their needs.

The calculator's widget version gives other organizations outside DOE an easy way to add a simplified alternative fuel and emissions calculator to their own websites, and it links to the full calculator for users interested in a more detailed analysis.

These online tools are now available on DOE's Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFDC). By providing a variety of tools, databases, and informational resources on vehicles powered by alternatives to gasoline and diesel, the AFDC helps consumers, fleet managers, and local governments find and compare energy-saving vehicles that can reduce their petroleum consumption.

In addition to the cost calculator, the AFDC features more than 20 other online tools. The Alternative Fueling Station Locator allows users to search for fuel stations and charge points in a specific region or along a set route. Light and heavy-duty vehicle searches provide information about currently available alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles, from sedans to school buses. The laws and incentives search provides information on state and federal laws, including tax credits, and allows users to sort by technology, location, type of user, or type of policy.

Visit EERE's Clean Cities website for more information about the initiative's deployment work that is reducing petroleum consumption in the transportation sector.

The Vehicle Cost Calculator might be your entry ramp onto the clean energy highway. Check it out today.

Eric Barendsen is a communications specialist and former Presidential Management Fellow with EERE's Communications and Outreach office in Washington, D.C.