Episode 168: Why aren’t alternative fuels more available?

fuel gauge

Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses why alternative fuels aren’t widely available.

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Ethanol Fueling Stations by the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center

TIAX Natural Gas for Vehicles Analysis by the American Gas Association

Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels by the National Academies of Science

Transcript

HOST: When fueling your car, have you ever wondered why all stations don’t sell fuels other than gasoline? On this week’s Energy Bite, Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

STEPH: Although vehicles on the market today can run on fuels other than gasoline like ethanol, most stations don’t offer them. This is because station operators are unlikely to invest in the equipment necessary to supply these alternative fuels without hope of fuel sales. On the other hand, drivers are unlikely to commit to an alternative fuel without a sufficient number of stations offering the fuel. It is a classic “chicken and egg” problem, which comes first: the stations or the alternatively-fueled vehicle?

HOST: Why would a gas station operator choose to start selling an alternative fuel?

STEPH: Some alternative fuels like ethanol can be sold alongside gasoline in a traditional retail station. In this case, selling an alternative fuel can be a way for gas station owners to differentiate themselves. They may also be able to reach an agreement with an owner of a fleet of vehicles, which solves the chicken and egg problem.

HOST: Would you like to see more alternative fuels offered at your local station? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

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