Finding Fuels for That New Green Car

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Locating Car Charging, Hydrogen and Other Alternative Fuels

[Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 25 seconds]

You’ve made the decision – or are close to it. That efficient, low or zero emissions alternative fuels vehicle you’ve been thinking about is going to be yours.

Then it hits you. It’s going to be great to have a car or truck that doesn’t need petroleum-based fuel, but where do I go to get fuel?

Well, finding alternative fuels isn’t all that difficult these days – thanks to the internet and a nationwide push to make petroleum-free vehicles more accessible – there are several good sources for locating fuel stations that specialize in biofuels, electric charging, natural gas and hydrogen fuel for the new fuel-cell electric cars just starting to make their way into the marketplace.

If you are buying a plug-in vehicle (PEV), either a battery-electric or plug-in hybrid model, you’ll probably wind up with a home charging station. For a thorough rundown on home charging, see our PEV Charging section.

Additionally, all PEVs cars come with navigation systems or smartphone apps that will locate nearby charging stations and guide you to them.

On top of that, the federal Energy Department operates the Alternative Fuel Data Center, which has a fairly comprehensive and up-to-date interactive map showing locations, operating hours and other info on more than 20,000 public alt-fuel stations including electric vehicle chargers, E85 ethanol and biodiesel pumps, hydrogen fueling stations, and compressed natural gas retailers, as well as sellers of liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (propane or autogas), which are fuels largely used by commercial vehicles in the U.S.

As an added bonus, the AFDC has a route planning guide that lets you input the fuel you need and your starting and stopping points and then computes the route with the most outlets for that fuel. Sometimes it shows you that you can’t get there in your alt-fuel vehicle, but it’s better to know that before you start out than to discover it on the road.

Websites devoted to promoting the various types of alt fuel also often have fuel station locators.

Among the more comprehensive we’ve found are:

Biodiesel:

  • Biodiesel.org, provides an on-line locator map for biodiesel stations.

Electric Vehicle Charging:

  • AAA, the national auto club, has an on-line travel planner and a mobile app that locate PEV charging stations around the country.
  • PlugShare, offers a crowd-sourced listing of PEV charging stations across the country, including the home stations of vehicle owners who’ve volunteered to share a plug with travelers who find their vehicles in need of a battery top-up and too depleted to make it to a commercial charging station.

Ethanol:

  • E85 Locator.net lists most of the public stations selling E85 (a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent unleaded gasoline).

Hydrogen:

  • California Fuel Cell Partnership provides an on-line listing of public hydrogen stations in California – where almost all of the public stations in the U.S. are located and, until there are more hydrogen stations outside the state, where almost all retail sales or leasing of the few fuel-cell electric vehicles in the market occurs.
  • A global H2Stations map that seems pretty up-to-date is maintaind by Ludwig-Bölkow Systemtechnik, an energy consulting firm based in Germany. Click on the map of North America  and it shows info on public and private hydrogen stations around the U.S. and Canada.

Natural Gas:

  • CNGNow.com offers an on-line CNG station locator as well as locator applications for iPhones and Android devices.
  • CNGPrices.com provides an on-line locator map for compressed natural gas stations, and prices, throughout the country.
  • LPG Stations maintains a global listing of propane automotive fuel (autogas) stations. Includes a route planer.

Not Enough?

Many local agencies and alternative fuels suppliers, such as natural gas and electric utility companies, also provide on-line and mobile station locators in the regions they serve. These are sometimes more comprehensive and up-to-date than the big national and global databases. The best way to find them is through an on-line search for the specific fuel you need, specifying your state or city.

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