Comparing vehicle options using Dual Axis Charts

Published on July 4, 2016

Being a Manager of Transportation and Procurement for a large company can be tough, but not for Shirley Padilla. Having grown up surrounded by cars, her love for them was sometimes construed as odd. With a picture of a V8 engine hanging on the wall behind her desk and a quote, ‘I love the smell of gasoline in the morning’ below, Shirley conducted her business as the Manager of Transportation and Procurement of a national cable company. As far as she was concerned, this was the best job she could ever have.

Her company has a fleet of over 20,000 cars and light trucks serving over two million customers across five states. As a fleet manager, one of Shirley’s chief responsibilities is to make recommendations to purchase the most fuel efficient vehicles; mainly because these company vehicles are on the road for five days a week and cover over 200 miles every day! This adds up to about 60k miles per year per vehicle and, on an average, these vehicles need to be replaced every two to three years.

Representing an environmentally responsible company, Shirley was also entrusted with the task of only choosing vehicles with the lowest emission in their category. This is precisely where she found herself in a pickle. Given that most of the crew went around town carrying a load of equipment which included bales of cables, routers, and other gadgets, the company couldn’t always purchase the most fuel efficient and the least polluting vehicle out there. They had to make tradeoffs.

Also, wanting to rid herself of those humongous spreadsheets full of vehicle-related data that she had been maintaining, Shirley decided to get in touch with the friendly Data Science team of her company.

——————–

Illuminated by the glow of the monitor, Ralph, a data scientist sits looking at a relatively small dataset of half a million records. Shirley approaches Ralph, who proceeds to ask a series of questions and gets the following answers:

  • Shirley is looking to purchase the most fuel efficient vehicles, so city and highway fuel efficiency plays an important role
  • She also wants to know the annual fuel costs and savings over a range of vehicles
  • Since the vehicles would be hauling loads, the size of the engine is also an important deciding factor
  • Given that the vehicles would be traversing different terrains and weather conditions, she wants to shortlist only 4-Wheel Drive vehicles
  • Another crucial deciding factor is the CO2 emissions of the vehicles
  • Last, Shirley wants to focus on automatic vehicles  

Armed with all this information, Ralph downloads the official US government dataset on fuel economy and gets to work. He analyzes and visualizes this dataset by creating an app called Pickup Trucks in Arcadia Instant, a free downloadable visual analytics tool. The app contains four visuals:

app-1-combined

Two bar charts depicting Fuel Efficiency and Emissions, a scatter chart showing the annual cost of fuel, and radial charts which compare the engine displacement, combined fuel efficiency, and emissions across different vehicles.

filters-update-filters-1

Along with that, the app also contains five Multi-select filters which are linked together— Manufacturer, Car Model, Transmission, Drive Type, and Fuel Type. Checking any one or multiple options refreshes all the other filters as well.

Since Shirley wants to look at only 4-Wheel Drive vehicles with an automatic transmission, Ralph checks these two boxes in the Multi-select filters. He also suggests finalizing gasoline-powered vehicles, as they are less polluting compared to their diesel counterparts. As Ralph checks Gasoline in the Fuel Type filter, Shirley can see the magic happen.

image01

Being an immaculate planner, Shirley first wants to compare the filtered vehicles by their fuel efficiency, emissions, and annual fuel cost.

fuel-efficiency

Ralph explains that the Fuel Efficiency bar chart gives a breakdown of both, highway and city fuel efficiency and hovering over any specific bar will provide her with the exact fuel efficiency of a vehicle. Based on this, Shirley can see that the GMC Canyon and the Chevrolet Colorado are the most efficient of the lot, followed closely by the Toyota Tacoma.

She then decides to look at the Emission bar chart in order to ascertain the highway and city emission levels of the shortlisted vehicles.

emissions

Like the Fuel Efficiency bar chart, it’s clear that the Canyon and the Colorado have the lowest emissions in the list of shortlisted vehicles, again, followed closely by the Tacoma.

cost-of-fuel-6-selected

Next, Shirley looks at the Cost of Fuel scatter chart in order to ascertain the annual cost of fuel. Even in this chart, it’s clear that the Canyon and the Colorado have the lowest annual fuel costs, followed by the Tacoma. Looking at all of this data and correlating it with the radial charts, which provide information about the engine displacement, combined efficiency, and emissions, Shirley limits her search to these three vehicles — the Colorado, the Canyon, and the Tacoma.

To drill down further into these options, Ralph suggests that Shirley takes over so that she can get familiar with the platform, which is fairly easy to use. She selects the three vehicles from the Multi-select filters, Manufacturers and Car Models. The app refreshes and now shows the data pertaining specifically to these three trucks.

app1-1

From the data, it is clear that the Canyon and the Colorado have a better fuel efficiency and lower emissions compared to the Tacoma.

app1-2

Even the annual cost of fuel is similar for both these trucks along with the engine displacement, as seen from the radial charts. Shirley narrows her search to just the GMC Canyon and the Chevrolet Colorado and keeps Toyota Tacoma as her last preference.

Ralph points out that the Canyon and the Colorado are nearly identical. Everything from their engine displacement to fuel efficiency, emissions, and the annual cost of fuel is similar!

The only thing that remains to finalize a vehicle is the price. But since there isn’t any fields called price in the data, Ralph decides to create another app and names it Comparison.

second-app1

This app gives a summary of the three shortlisted trucks, including the engine displacement and transmission. Ralph links a car review website to the app using a link visual and enables click behavior on the comparison visual. Now, Shirley can see all the essential aspects of these trucks, including price, which helps her make a better decision.

She decides to start with a look at the Tacoma. Clicking on the click_to_refresh column next to the truck name opens a webpage inside the app, which gives her all the details including price and trim levels.

second-app2

image07

The model that’s got her attention is the 4WD Double Cab V6 AT SR, which is listed for $29,275. She now checks out the other two vehicles. She clicks on the click_to_refresh columns next to the truck names one by one.

image11

image05

The GMC Canyon, despite having a slightly more powerful engine, better fuel efficiency, and lower emissions costs almost $5000 more than the Tacoma. Since Shirley wants to purchase 250 vehicles, she immediately rules out this truck.

With a prayer on her lips and her fingers crossed, Shirley clicks on the Chevrolet Colorado, which she considers to be the most suitable truck as it won’t burn a hole in the company’s wallet.

image12

image08

Despite having the same specifications as the Canyon, the crew cab 128.3” WT trim is about $4000 cheaper than its GMC counterpart. Compared to Tacoma, the same model costs about $1000 more.

Shirley then switches back to the Pickup Trucks app in order to understand if paying more for the Canyon would be worth it in terms of lower cost of fuel and emissions. The Emission, Fuel Efficiency, and the Annual Cost of Fuel charts tell her that the annual fuel cost for the Tacoma is only $50 more than the Canyon and combined fuel efficiency and emissions are nearly similar.

The truck that Shirley wouldn’t have considered had she solely been relying on her spreadsheets, the Toyota Tacoma, turned out to be the best possible choice for her company. By visualizing pickup truck data using Arcadia Instant, Shirley ended up making the right decision and saving her company more than $250,000! She thanks Ralph for helping her visualize this data and for giving her a walkthrough of Arcadia Instant.  You can also try out Arcadia Instant for free here.