REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- When it comes to environmental stewardship in the convenience store industry, retailer efforts can range from cosmetic to money-saving to changing the industry. Propel Fuels in Redwood City, Calif., believes it is on the frontline of ushering in a change in how consumers fuel their vehicles.
“Propel Fuels is a clean-mobility company,” CEO Matt Horton told CSP Daily News. “What that means for us is we’re trying to build a different kind of fueling company, one that’s dedicated to giving customers options in the fuel beyond just gasoline and diesel.”
Today that means 43 retail sites that sell E-85 and biodiesel, with plans to expand into electric vehicle charging, compressed natural gas and other options at stations across the West Coast.
“As a company, we’re really trying to make these fuel convenient,” Horton said. “We would like to reach about 200 fueling location in the state of California over the next several years. That kind of penetration really makes Propel and these alternative fuels a very convenient choice for a majority of California drivers.”
While many of Propel’s fueling locations are located on other retailers’ properties, the company has opened six Clean Mobility Stations—its answer to the “gas station.” At these sites, Propel provides its varied fuel offer, along with unique marketing initiatives that underscore the company’s philosophy, including a bicycle station, free air and water, a summary of local transit options, ride sharing programs and public transportation.
“We believe the consumer is one of the most powerful sources of change that exists in the world,” Horton said. “Everyday consumers are voting with their wallets in the fuel choices that they’re making. They have now opportunities to use those dollars to support renewable, cleaner, domestically sourced fuels instead of conventional fuels, and we believe that consumers provide the power to help us make the change as an industry.”
At Propel Clean Mobility Stations, consumers also get the option to offset their carbon footprint.
“Not every customer has a flexible-fuel vehicle today, so we want to give all of them the option to help invest in a cleaner environment,” Horton said. “We [give customers] the ability to offset all of the carbon emissions in that gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel that they’re buying. They can do it with a simple touch of a button right in the transaction process, and it’s been a very effective way for us to eliminate millions of pounds of CO2 from the air.”
That money is donated to Propel Fuels partner CarbonFund.org. Horton says it’s a matter of keeping ahead of the trends in the industry.
“We believe that this industry is in the early stages of a massive transformation,” he says. “When we look down the road several years, we see a world where alternative fuels are going to be much more mainstream, gasoline and diesel volumes are going to continue to be flat to declining, and customers are going to be looking for new and different things out of their fueling stations. So we see a lot of opportunity for change, and we’re very excited about partnering with great retailers and others in the existing fuel supply chain to be able to bring these new fuels to customers in communities all across the country.”
Propel Fuels’ efforts earned it one of three CSP 2013 Environmental Stewardship Awards. The awards were handed out during CSP’s Outlook Leadership Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., in November.