In an ideal world, everyone could afford the all-electric Tesla Model S, and charging infrastructure would be built throughout the land.
In the real world, even well-meaning car buyers who want to buy “green” have plenty of tradeoffs to make about what will fit their budget and lifestyle. Beyond understanding that higher fuel economy is a good thing, they don’t have much data to compare the environmental footprint of different vehicles.
A useful new site called RideNerd, which launched last week, hopes to change the calculus for shoppers who want to consider a car’s environmental profile or understand when hybrids will pay off their higher sticker price, but don’t know where to start.
“I was looking at buying a car, and realized I was looking at some pretty geeky information,” says Brenden Sherratt. He and three co-founders combed through EPA data, environmental reports from car manufacturers, and other online resources to create a tool that puts all the information in one place and makes different models easy to compare.
RideNerd displays green benchmarks for vehicles, such as EPA standard fuel economy and crowdsourced real-world fuel economy from the site Fuelly, as well as the EPA smog and greenhouse gas emissions. Its calculator tools allow users to search for and compare any two vehicles, including the annual cost of ownership to drivers (taking into account the fuel savings of a hybrid) and to the environment. It also calculates a “RideNerd” score that takes into account environmental, fuel economy, and affordability factors. For actual car nerds, it also includes all of the normal car specs and aggregates reviews in one place.
As an example, Sherratt notes that the Tesla Model S is indeed expensive, but compared to other high-end models, it may actually be a steal. “It’s really interesting to see how much an electric car can actually make savings pretty quickly.”
In some cases, the opposite is true. Comparing the Toyota Camry Hybrid LE (Score: 7.7) to the same non-hybrid version of the car (Score: 7), one could conclude that an average driver would save money with the hybrid, but a “quick, around town” driver might not, Sherratt says. The tool shows that for people who drive around 15,000 miles a year, the hybrid is only just a tad more expensive when taking into account fuel costs and car payments (though the hybrid is more climate and air-friendly).
There’s not much out there that makes these sorts of comparisons explicitly. Overall, RideNerd seems to be a useful, mobile-friendly tool that makes it just a little easier to consider the environment in a car purchasing decisions. The team eventually hopes to bring in some money through advertising, though there is none yet.
[Image: Flickr user Bobo Boom]