This new app helps you find the most efficient vehicle in your price range

What is the right vehicle for change?

CREDIT: Pexels
CREDIT: Pexels

Most people want cleaner air and lower fuel costs, even if it means paying extra for a car. A recent study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for instance, found that more than half of Americans would shell out a little more for an electric vehicle.

That’s good to hear, but as at it turns out, they won’t have to.

Many electric vehicles — when accounting for the cost of fuel, maintenance and repairs — cost the same or less than comparable gas-powered cars. A new app from MIT’s Trancik Lab shows exactly how much carbon-saving technology you can afford.

CarbonCounter.com. CREDIT: MIT Trancik Lab
CarbonCounter.com. CREDIT: MIT Trancik Lab

The app, CarbonCounter.com, plots out the prices of 125 popular car models and their greenhouse gas emissions per mile, relative to U.S. climate targets. These are the thresholds that the average car will have to meet to limit global warming to less than 2ºC (3.6ºF). The MIT researchers created the app with data from a study they published in Environmental Science and Technology in September.

The app contains clickable data points and lets users set search by size, type, driving conditions, energy prices, and tax credits. It also makes it easy to compare specific models.

Pay now. Save later.

A quick search reveals that popular gas-powered sedans like the Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima are more expensive over their lifetime and pollute far more than several hybrid and electric vehicles, like the Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf, or Tesla Model 3.

CREDIT: Tesla
CREDIT: Tesla

Assuming average gas prices and 50 percent city driving, no internal combustion engine vehicles meet the U.S. 2030 emission-reduction targets. However, about half of hybrid vehicles meet these targets, as does nearly every electric car.

Unsurprisingly, SUVs, pick-up trucks, minivans and sports cars were the heaviest polluters, while sedans and hatchbacks boasted lower emissions.

The study suggests that, by 2050, only electric vehicles supplied with nearly zero-carbon power are expected to meet climate targets.

The good news is that electric vehicle sales are increasing rapidly. A decade ago, there were only a few hundred on the road. In 2015, electric cars surpassed 1 million worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency.

Based on IEA data from Global EV Outlook 2016. CREDIT: IEA
Based on IEA data from Global EV Outlook 2016. CREDIT: IEA

Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that, by 2040, annual electric vehicle sales will hit 41 million.

Using the MIT app can help people find the right car for their price range. As dealers are scrambling to meet their year-end targets, car buyers should consider vehicles that meet our 2030 goals. We’re not there yet.

Laura A. Shepard writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture. You can follow her at @LAShepard221.