The Energy Station – Multi Fuel Filling Stations

E-85 Could the day of the single fuel "gas station" be fading away as we keep moving toward a multi fuel or multiple energy source transportation system? Would you go out of your way to fill up with ethanol if a station was nearby and your vehicle could handle it? How about biodiesel or hydrogen or battery packs?

Charles Martin who owns Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine, Texas, the nation's largest Chevy dealer located close to Dallas, got a little tired of selling all of these flex fuel capable cars and trucks when his customers had nowhere to fill them with anything other than gasoline. Frustration led to action and he opened his own filling station at the dealership where you can fill up with gasoline or E-85 or biodiesel. This is not a new idea, other similar stations have opened here and there before but it's not surprising it's taking a while.

There's no one company providing any of these fuels with a good reason to promote or fund a filling station with anything else besides what they offer.

"The reason why you haven't seen a greater number of E-85 pumps is that customers aren't knocking our doors down to get it," said Mark Griffin, president of the Michigan Petroleum Association.

Well, of course not. A lot of consumers aren't even sure whose doors they should be knocking on to get other fuels, it's like telling your cable company they should be offering satellite dishes. They don't want to, it's not what they do, ... although they might be smart if they did. Recently, there have been more oil companies running commercials about what they're doing with alternative energy, BP is one and Chevron is another, but in relation to what they invest in oil production, it's still pretty small and that, too, makes business sense for them.

This Chevy dealer is doing what makes the most sense for him, making the fuel available for the vehicles he sells because he has a stake in the process and it's exactly those people, along with the rest of us who drive or ride the vehicles using these multiple energy sources, who are more likely to do this instead of the usual companies who have opened gas stations over the years.

"We need to accelerate the rate at which these fuels are available, and if you look at real estate in a different way, the possibilities are limitless," said Mary Beth Stanek, GM's director of environment and energy. The Detroit automaker, like other manufacturers, is building more so-called FlexFuel vehicles that can take both E-85 ethanol and gasoline.

Stanek sees a future not only with gas stations, but with stores that give themselves titles such as "energy hub" or "green retailer." Consumers would go there to plug in, fuel up or recharge.

It's a great idea, and whether you're a gearhead or green power guy, this sort of multi fuel "energy station" might be the wave of the very near future.

Link: Detroit News

Related: E85 Motorcycles - When?
Related: MegaSquirt EFI

Comments

  1. Matt in NC says

    I’m all for recycling veggie oil, and I love the idea of people fueling their vehicles on that “waste” oil for free, but ethanol fuels that are produced, inefficiently, from food/feed grains should be banned. The news sites are running main page headlines as I write this about the sharp spike in rice/grains costs worldwide, and impending global unrest because of food prices skyrocketing. At the same time, buried behind all the headlines, with small fonts, are two stories about potentially huge oil finds off the Brazilian coast, and in our own backyard of North Dakota. You can’t feed people oil, but you can take food off their table by running your vehicle on grains. E85 is a GM folly. Hybrids and electrics are still in their infancy, and they have the potential to supplant the gasoline powered I/C driven car/bike. Diesels are getting cleaner each year, and it appears that in the next year or two we’ll be seeing a renewed test of the American public’s opinion of using Diesel to power our cars. I’d really like to see grain-based ethanol fuels scrapped, permanently. If there’s a company out there willing to really do algae-based ethanols, more power to ‘em, but until then I am not patronizing any stations that sell ethanol based or blended fuels.

  2. Ry says

    All of the Meijer gas stations in Michigan that I have been to carry: natural gas , E85 , diesel and gasoline. I agree with Matt about the E85 folly though.

  3. PUSkunk says

    Luckily, locally there is a large regional gas station operator who has heavily invested in infrastructure for alternative fuels. Just about every station he owns has E85 pumps and carry B20, or 20% biodiesel mix. I know of a friend who drives a highly modified VW TDI who goes out of her way to get the B20 as a way of showing support. She can’t get it in FL where she lives now though. The local distributor is http://www.myspinx.com/ Upstate SC area only though.

  4. says

    A big part of the reason customers aren’t beating on fuel suppliers’ doors and asking where the E85 pumps are has to do with the (relatively) poor fuel efficiency of ethanol-based fuels. Gallon for gallon, ethanol contains about 25 percent less chemical potential energy than gasoline, which in turn contains about 15-20 percent less than diesel fuel. A flex fuel vehicle that gets 25 MPG on gasoline will be lucky to average 20 MPG on E85.

    At the same price as gasoline, why would you buy the E85? If it was 25 percent cheaper, sure, but it’s not. The energy per dollar spent just doesn’t make economic sense when you have the choice.

    cl

  5. says

    While E85 may be moving to cellulosic origins, there was a huge push for the farmer to grow corn for fuel. That needs nipped in the “bud” fast.

    Are there certifications posted on the E85 pumps indicating that the fuel is not corn-fed?

  6. christopher says

    I support ethanol 100%. It will be the simplest to adapt to and, as several of you have already mentioned, we are finding ways to produce it that have little to no negative impact. The “less energy per gallon” argument can be countered with higher compression. Ethanol’s higher octane rating allows compression ratios approaching diesel territory. Wouldn’t exactly work for a Flex-Fuel vehicle, but in an Ethanol specific engine, MPG could conceivably be similar or better than that of a gasoline engine. Stumbled upon this website that has a listing of fuel stations that carry Ethanol for every state:

    http://e85vehicles.com/e85-stations.htm

  7. says

    yes Chris Lawson, less energy, but there are ways to compensate, i.e. higher compression, squirt more fuel, etc.

    The GM race cars currently using cellulosic E85 just have slightly bigger fuel tanks, because of the need to squirt more fuel to get the same horsepower.

    If anyone is having that hard of a time distinguishing real benefits of E85 over gasoline, how ’bout this one: less dependency on FOREIGN OIL. Or how about the fact that cellulosic E85 burns cleaner than gas? I’ll sacrifice a few mpg for those two benefits any day.

    Also, I think it’s the pump owners who will play a key role in alternative fuels gaining popularity. There are quite a few attractive grants available now to retrofit your pumps for alternative fuels.

  8. P.T. Anderson says

    I’m not going to mince words here. Bio-fuels are the new ecological disaster. It doesn’t matter if it was a crop with the potential for being on someones menu or not. It doesn’t matter how clean it is. It will make us less dependent on foreign petroleum but at the same time we will import more of these bio-fuels, so there is no gain there either. There is no way around this. The current petroleum consumption per year globally is roughly equivilant to 400 years of photosynthesis over the entire planet, not a typo. Check out these recent articles which appeared in a couple of well known periodicals…

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4237539.html?page=1

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1725975,00.html

    I’m sure someone is going to point out the use of used cooking oil, and other waste products like that, as a bio-fuel. Which to me is a great idea and which I prefer to mention as “waste-fuels”. This helps distinguish them from “bio-fuels” which could be grown for the sole purpose as a fuel. However in the grand scheme of things, even “waste-fuels” will never become commercially viable. I wish it could be…

  9. Doug McDaniel says

    Personally, I go out of my way to put gas in my bike that has not had ethanol added to it. It’s usually higher priced, but I figure I’m getting roughly 4 mpg higher and riding my bike is almost 3 times more economical (fuel-wise) anyway. I’m sure this isn’t PC with all the Green-Thinking folks out there, but if half the population rode bikes (i.e. motorcycles) when feasible,instead of their cages, that alone would make a huge difference in foreign oil dependency.

  10. kneeslider says

    Ethanol is no magic bullet but it might be a partial answer among many which could help us find better answers down the road. Sure, ethanol has shortcomings, but last I checked, so does everything else. Try something, get closer, try something else, get closer still, tweak, improve, life is good. Constant improvement, in a series of small, imperfect steps, is far superior to doing nothing while waiting for the perfect answer to arrive.

  11. says

    What would happen if a year’s worth of money and effort that is thrown at Iraq, was instead, put towards scientists harvesting algae?

    Millions of $ per DAY

    Thousands of $ per SECOND

  12. says

    The bottom line is that we’re not going to find some magic chemical that beats hydrocarbon fuels for safety, stability, and energy density any time in the next 100 years.

    The sooner everyone starts viewing hydrocarbons as an energy *storage* medium, not an energy source, the better off we’ll all be. Nuclear, solar, wind, etc. can be used to generate electricity, which can in turn be used to build hydrocarbon chains that can be used as a fuel for situations where electricity is impractical (e.g., airliners, which will never be able to run purely on chemical batteries due to weight issues).

    The so-called “hydrogen economy” is a good first step toward such an ideal, but hydrogen, as far as energy storage media go, has an awful lot of drawbacks. Diesel fuel is a vastly superior means of storing chemical energy by almost every meaningful measure, but making diesel fuel out of electricity and a basic chemical feedstock isn’t easy. Something like thermal depolymerization, which can take pretty much *any* carbon-based feedstock and turn it into diesel-like fuel oil, seems like the way to go here. I don’t think we’d have any problems finding enough feedstock for the process, as Americans seem to love to throw things away.

    cl