A gas station of tomorrow — today

Pull up to a Propel Fuels gas station and you could be asked: “Do you want fry oil with that?”

This unique drive-thru offering “food” for your car is the gas station of the future, today. The Clean Mobility Center, the first of its kind in the nation, debuted in Fullerton on Wednesday on Chapman Avenue, selling two blends of biodiesel fuels including B20, which is 80 percent petro-diesel and 20 percent waste veggie fry oil or biodiesel. Also available on the same green island is E85, 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. The corn/alcohol/gas blend is known as FlexFuel and is accepted in dozens of cars, pickups and SUVs carrying the FlexFuel label. Chevrolet has had several models for years, from the Malibu to the Silverado truck.

The best thing with FlexFuel is that Propel is selling it for $3.59 a gallon, about a buck lower than the $4.23 to $4.44 for a compatible unleaded gasoline grade. So you can save money and the planet.

“There are many American drivers who don’t even know they have a FlexFuel car,” said Propel Fuels CEO Matt Horton.

Yeah, now that you’re back from checking the back of your car, keep on reading.

Got a diesel vehicle? Diesel isn’t just for big rigs anymore. Car manufacturers are making diesel cars as clean diesel technology emerges. They can take Propel’s biodiesel blend without any conversion necessary. Horton himself drives a 2005 Volkswagen TDI diesel and says he doesn’t notice any difference between diesel and biodiesel in performance or fuel economy.

Motor Trend awarded the 2012 VW TDI Passat first place in fuel economy. The Passat got 40 miles per gallon, beating top-rated hybrid sedans. And yes, it can run on Propel’s biodiesel blend, he said.

Sick of paying higher prices for gasoline? Tired of supporting big oil companies that earn humungous profits and foul our oceans? Want a way to stop supporting overseas dictators?

There is an alternative.

“For the first time anywhere, now there are options,” said Mary Nichols, chairman of the state Air Resources Board.

With 23 stations in California, Propel Fuels, an American company that actually moved from Washington into Redwood City, bringing jobs to the state, is also bringing its blend of alternative fuels and environmental consciousness to the consumer level.

Their Clean Mobility Centers also offer: free air right on the island; a bicycle station also with air and free access to tools to repair your two-wheeler; a map/transit/carpool information kiosk, and for those filling up with regular gasoline, a carbon footprint offset.

For an extra buck, you can offset the damage to the environment by swiping your card and pushing the “carbon offset” button at the pump. You’ll instantly invest in carbonfund.org, which is building clean energy projects. Each time you fill up and swipe, Propel will track your environmental progress. It has about 10,000 customers already in its database.

If you don’t live near Fullerton, you can fill up with clean fuels at their partnership stations: the Chevron Station at West Huntington Drive and First Street in Arcadia; the 76 Station at Firestone Boulevard and San Antonio Drive in Norwalk.

Propel Fuels plans on adding natural gas and maybe hydrogen, as soon as the vehicle market for both fuels expands, Horton said.

As fast as Propel picked up grants, first from the feds and then from the California Energy Commission ($5 million in seed money), it is towing a crowd of venture capital investors, Nichols said.

“They have leveraged a lot of private capital,” said Andrew McAllister, Energy Commission board member. Propel includes several private industry customers, such as shipping giant FedEx and Econation, a green taxi-limousine service that uses the Arcadia station to fill up its FlexFuel vans.

Less smog, a better climate future, energy independence, American jobs and convenience. Pretty impressive.

They had me at free air pumps.

This entry was posted in environment, land use, Pasadena by Steve Scauzillo. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.

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