Propel Fuels Receives Millions To Expand In California

New gas station in Redwood City, Calif. receives millions in grant money to open more stations across the state.

Propel Fuels plans to expand its sales of alternative fuels throughout California within the next four years.

Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels, wants to help consumers find convenient places for drivers to fill their tanks with cleaner fuel. Last month, the company opened the country’s first gas station where drivers can pump gasoline, ethanol and biodiesel, cyclists can get tuneups and commuters can find public transit schedules.

So far, the company has been backed by more than $19 million in venture capital, and nearly $12 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission. The Redwood City, Calif. startup received an additional $10.1 million grant from the commission yesterday to help build 101 stations throughout the state during the next four years.

“The California Energy Commission wants to increase access to renewable fuels,” said Chris LePlante, director of marketing for Propel Fuels. “So we, as a leading fuel retailer in California, were a good partner for that and we share goals.”

Currently, only about 3,100 of the 160,000 gas stations across the country are selling alternative fuels, according to the Department of Energy. LePlante said this problem really needs to be addressed in California. He said the state is a big vehicle market with few options for consumers to use renewable fuels.

“The gasoline stations don’t want a competitor, but the alternative fuels industry is dependent on its largest competitor as a pathway to the market,” said Geoff Cooper, vice president of research and analysis at the Renewable Fuels Association to Bloomberg Businessweek. “In many cases, you aren’t going to see a retailer take a gasoline pump out of commission to put in a product that competes with gasoline.”

The four-year-old Propel business made more than $10 million in revenue last year, and has been averaging 300% growth since 2010. Propel also provides information about alternative fuels at its pumps.

Propel Fuels operates approximately 21 stations in California, and 6 stations in Washington state.

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