"Gas trucks fill your vehicle where it is parked"
Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News / Scientific American
Some California drivers no longer go to the gas station—and it’s not because they drive electric cars.
Gasoline increasingly is being delivered into the fuel tanks of cars while their owners work or as they spend time at home.
It’s a trend in Silicon Valley, where technology companies offer fuss-free fill-ups to employees as a perk. They include PayPal, UPS, Facebook, Cisco, IBM and FedEx.
There are also “pop up” gas stations. Motorists can stay in their cars as attendants top off their tanks with refueling trucks.
“People just love the convenience. They love that they don’t have to get out of their cars,’ said Avneesh Nigam, senior director of community relations at Maximus Real Estate Partners, landlord of a 10,000-resident housing community that offers pop-up gas refills.
“They love that it’s contactless,” he added, pointing to the pandemic.
The practice known as “mobile fueling on demand” now is on the radar of both the California Legislature and the state Air Resources Board. The trend has prompted calls for a statewide standard to police the industry and restrict gasoline vapor emissions.
The Air Resources Board, a climate-focused agency, last month issued its first certification that a mobile fuel provider’s system properly limits those emissions. The certification currently isn’t needed to operate, but it can offer a kind of stamp of approval from the regulatory office. Booster Fuels, the gas provider, sought the certification on its own.
Meanwhile, state Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D) has offered a bill, A.B. 905, that would require CARB to issue regulations for vehicles used to deliver the gas and to control emissions from those businesses.
Mobile fueling can reduce “total vehicle miles traveled to gas stations” and lower vapor emissions from gas station pumps, Quirk said in a statement. It also helps drivers with a disability or chronic illness. The bill would set statewide standards.
It comes as California attempts to become the first state to start phasing out gas- and diesel-fueled vehicles. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued an executive order last year banning the sale of new gas-fueled passenger vehicles after 2035.
But the idea of delivering gasoline to motorists “sends a bad message,” said Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law.
“Gasoline should be stigmatized to a certain extent as a heavily polluting, environmentally impactful resource,” he said. “We should not be making it easier to fuel up with fossil fuels at this point.”
Joseph Okpaku, chief policy officer at Booster Fuels, defended the practice as a lower-emissions alternative to conventional gas stations.
“Today we provide the most sustainable way to fill up,” he said in an email, “but we are also fully prepared to evolve with the energy demand needs of the future.”