Fast Forward in Fueling

For most Americans, our transportation choices are limited to the fuels offered at the local gas station. For generations, regular gas stations served our needs pretty well, but America’s transportation needs are changing. Every day we learn about new choices in alternative fuel vehicles, advancements in vehicle efficiency, and new, cleaner types of fuel, so it’s bewildering that gas stations haven’t kept up with these changes. Gas stations today offer a fundamental lack of choices and are no longer in step with the way Americans seek to move about their lives.

With 160,000 fueling locations across America, gas stations outnumber McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Starbucks, and Taco Bell…combined. But as consumers’ transportation needs change, there is no effort by Big Oil to change with them. Fifty percent of the cars in Big Three showrooms are now capable of being powered by something besides oil. Domestically produced renewable fuels have surpassed imports from Saudi Arabia, and gas consumption is at a 10-year low – yet gas prices remain at all time record levels. Mobility is transforming in other ways with ride sharing, public transit, cycling, and telecommuting all on the rise. Yet still no change in our fueling infrastructure.

At Propel, we have created a new vision for the way gas stations serve the mobility needs of a community, one that meets the changing habits of America’s drivers. Earlier this year, we launched our first ‘Clean Mobility Center’ in Fullerton, California, to offer consumers new, more sustainable, domestic fuel and transportation choices that are more in line with their values, and also reduce our collective impact on the environment while supporting local economies and decreasing our nation’s reliance on foreign oil.

Our Clean Mobility Centers provide a distinctly different customer fueling experience, offering a full range of high performance renewable fuels (Flex Fuel E85, biodiesel) alongside the conventional gasoline that drivers use today. More than 17 million cars on American roads can fuel with something besides oil, and for those that can’t, we provide drivers an opportunity to be part of the solution and a movement towards clean mobility.

With a focus beyond fuel, our Clean Mobility Centers also offer a series of unique, community-friendly features not found at any other gas station in the nation. To maximize fuel economy, we offer free air to fill-up vehicle tires and we have installed bike repair stations so cyclists can tune up and fix bikes along their route. Additionally we have kiosks that provide local bus and other mass transit maps and routes, along with information about rideshare opportunities. Finally, we have two new features at the fueling island: recycling on the go, and the nation’s first carbon offset program, which for only $1 per fill-up allows drivers to offset the carbon emissions from their purchase right at the pump and support local clean energy projects.

Looking forward, as new, even more sustainable fuels and transportation options come to market, we’ll use the infrastructure we’re building today to offer new choices. In fact, we’re actively exploring options such as renewable gasoline and diesel, cellulosic fuels, algae-based fuels, natural gas, EV charging, and car sharing.

Just as we’ve seen in other industries, such as manufacturing labor, fair trade practices, or organic agriculture, consumer choice can be the biggest force for change in our society. At the pump, consumers can now vote with their wallets and choose a fuel company that better aligns with their values and interests. No matter what type of car they drive, consumers can use our new stations and learn about cleaner mobility options along the way. With 160,000 outlets and regular contact with customers, the fueling industry is in a unique position to engage consumers and lead them to a brighter future.  So far, though, our industry hasn’t shown much leadership. America’s transportation needs are changing, and we believe it’s time our gas stations changed, too.


Matt Horton is CEO of Propel Fuels,