Are you driving the right car for an oil crisis?

Posted July 29, 2014
Source: Fuel by Amy Myers Jaffe

With further escalation in hostilities in Iraq as the militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) tries to lock down more oil and gas assets, it is hard not to worry that an oil crisis might be looming. Saudi Arabia has fortified its northern border with Iraq with more military hardware and troops while Iraqi oil industry sources report that Iranian forces were simultaneously moving into areas surrounding the Southern Iraqi oilfields, raising the stakes in a possible escalation in recent border skirmishes. At the same time, Moscow is doubling down in its support for rebel fighters in the Ukraine, intensifying its conflict with the West and increasingly the likelihood that energy trade with Russia will get disrupted.

So far, the looming global instability has not ratcheted up US gasoline prices which are generally hovering around $3.50 a gallon. But it might be a good time for American consumers to think about how well they would be positioned in an oil crisis.

The Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis (ITS-Davis) can help you figure out the answer to that question with a new web-based tool, EV Explorer, that allows consumers to compare simultaneously up to four different vehicles on an energy cost basis.

Just enter your start and finish commute locations and frequency of travel, and the yearly costs for four vehicles will appear side-by-side. With EV Explorer, you can calculate the annual gasoline and electricity fuel costs of your commute or other travel in an easy-to-use chart that you can share with your friends.

I tested EV Explorer to see how my car, the Ford C-Max hybrid plug-in gasoline/electric vehicle, currently fairs for my short commute. I could save $10 a year if I went to an all-electric vehicle but then I would lose the flexibility to drive the car to San Francisco to see family and friends. If I went to San Francisco every day, I apparently could save an additional $767 annually if I had waited to purchase a new Toyota hybrid plug-in but then the car itself would have been more expensive, wiping out the financial benefit of my fuel savings. Driving a plug-in hybrid would save me about $800 to $900 a year versus a Honda Civic, if I traveled to San Francisco every day.

Join me in testing your car on your commute against a hybrid or electric vehicle by clicking here. Are you ready for an oil crisis?