By Maura Keller
Imagine driving hundreds of miles each week, but never having to stop at a gas station. No, you aren’t driving an electric vehicle. Rather, you are part of a growing number of consumers who have signed up with residential mobile fueling programs whereby the gasoline is brought to them.
Agricultural entities, construction companies, farmers and some transportation companies have been paying diesel fuel delivery companies for years to fill up their tanks. But delivering hundreds of gallons of gas through quiet residential neighborhoods or a corporate campus to fill up people’s cars while they work or sleep is a new trend.
Residential mobile fueling is a growing trend in cities across the country. As Anna Roubos, Director of Communications at Filld, explained, her company came into being as a result of one of its founders running out of gas and, while trying to find a nearby gas station, wondered whether there was a better way to get gas.
“He tried finding a service that would deliver gas to him, and when he realized no such service existed, set out with his friend to eliminate the gas station errand for everyone,” Roubos said.
Today, Filld provides services to Silicon Valley and San Francisco in California.
“Our customers order regularly and many report that they haven’t stopped for gas since their first order with Filld,” Roubos said. “We see a lot of success with three kinds of people: stay-at-home parents, power commuters and tech-savvy early adopters who enjoy a variety of on-demand services.”
So how do residential or on-demand mobile fueling programs work? Filld, for example, charges the lowest price of the three stations closest to you plus a small delivery fee, typically $3. Within their service area, they deliver gas to your vehicle where you are, 24/7.
“We are getting requests for expansion from around the U.S.,” Roubos said. “Getting gas is something almost everyone has to do and almost no one enjoys. We service individuals, groups and fleets of vehicles. We currently don’t integrate with fleet card services.”
Filld sources from the same wholesale distributors as traditional gas stations and they use Ford F250 trucks that carry three U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved 100-gallon aluminum tanks.
“We use weights and measures-certified custody meters and a 50-foot hose reel so we can reach the vehicle wherever it’s parked,” Roubos said. “Our trucks are also equipped with spill containment kits and two fire extinguishers.”
Available in three major cities in California and in Seattle, Purple also is currently providing on-demand fueling services, working to provide service to additional cities throughout the U.S. in the future.
Purple assigns couriers who fulfill the customer orders to local top tier gas stations where they can get the amount of gas to complete the order. Using the Purple app, consumers simply select the length of their preferred service window (one hour or three hours) and the location of their vehicle. All the customer has to do is make sure that the gas tank door is open before Purple services their car.
“The concept came when my wife kept asking me to go fill up her car,” said Bruno Uzzan, CEO of Purple. “I thought that in today’s age with all of the technology at our fingertips, there has to be an on-demand service to provide fuel. So I set out with my co-founder to see how we could make it happen.” Backed by Uber co-founder Oscar Salazar, the company is part of a growing market for fuel on demand.
Currently Purple is operating mainly in Los Angeles, but they also have some activities in Orange County, San Diego and Seattle.
“Our customers are everyone from parents who are too busy to get gas to the everyday commuter that prefers not to wait in long lines at the gas station,” said Jeff Dove, Marketing Director at Purple. “We are also working with corporate accounts such as hotels, residences and car fleets.”
There are one- and three-hour windows when a car will be serviced by Purple. For one-hour it costs $5.99 and for a three-hour window it’s $3.99. Purple Plus is a monthly membership designed to help consumers get the most out of Purple while providing cost savings. Purple Plus offers two tiers of monthly membership: Standard and Express. Standard costs $7.99/month and Express costs $15.99/month. Regardless of the type or length of service chosen, Purple customers can choose between unleaded 87 octane or unleaded 91 octane fuel in Southern California, and unleaded 87 octane or unleaded 92 octane in Seattle.
“We have developed our own equipment to deliver gas while leveraging portable fuel containers of five gallons,” Dove said. “This equipment consists on a smart dolly and gravity nozzle. Both are IP protected.”
Purple’s couriers also never carry more than 30 gallons of fuel and therefore they are compliant with regulatory hassles. Purple service providers are required to comply with all DOT, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local municipalities’ safety and quality control measures. And service providers are fully insured.
“But we are actively working with regulators to keep reinforcing safety for each order,” Uzzan said. In response to the concern of city fire departments about mobile trucks being used to fuel consumer vehicles, many of the residential mobile fueling companies are being careful to limit the size of their gas tanks to stay under limits outlined in the International Fire Code, a guideline followed by many U.S. states.
Filld works with over 40 local, state and federal regulators to ensure the safe transport of its fuel. What’s more, their drivers are highly trained and have commercial Class C licenses, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) clearance and HAZMAT certification.
While Filld and Purple have made inroads on the West Coast, Booster Fuels is introducing the concept of residential mobile fueling to northern Texas, as well as Northern California. Specifically, Booster Fuels partners with large businesses to offer on-demand fuel service at corporate campuses across the region. Employees park their cars, request a fill-up on the Booster Fuels app, leave their gas cap open and when they return after the work day is done their car is filled. Employees can request a “Boost” between 7 am and 4 pm.
By employing the same global positioning service (GPS) technology used by on-demand ride sharing companies, such as Uber, Booster users simply request fuel from their car once parked. Booster drivers verify GPS location via make, model, color and license plate.
The premise of Booster Fuels means that, by servicing employee cars in the parking lot, their commute times are lessened because they don’t have to stop for fuel.
So what does the future hold for mobile fueling programs for individual consumers? Industry experts envision a future where smarter refueling creates a world with fewer gas stations and greater access.
“Purple has been growing rapidly and our members love our service,” Dove said. “Most people put up with going to the gas station because there has been no alternative. We are working hard to continue to provide the best service we can.”