Fuel choice has always suffered from the age-old chicken and egg problem: Businesses don’t want to provide alternative fuels, and the vehicles that can run them, unless there’s a demonstrable demand. Meanwhile, consumers won’t (or can’t) show businesses there’s a demand for these vehicles and fuels until they’re readily available.
Since we’ve already discussed what the government (or coop, if you will) can do to aid fuel choice, now we’re going to discuss the egg—or the chicken, depending on your point of view—part of this problem. What can businesses do to bring about fuel choice here in America?
For starters, automakers could do more to ensure that consumers have a wide variety of alternative fuel vehicles to choose from. To be fair, as we recently noted, some have already embraced fuel choice to varying degrees: Audi, Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Ram, and Toyota all offer at least two alternative fuel vehicle models. The pack leader, Chevrolet, offers a grand total of six fuel options in their vehicle lineup.
However, all automakers could be doing much more to bring fuel choice to consumers. Ideally, automakers would make selecting your vehicle’s fuel source just another option alongside color, seat material, and transmission type. Clearly they know how to do it: The Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-series can be customized to run on CNG, LPG, biodiesel, or ethanol; you can configure your Hyundai Ioniq as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, or an all-electric; and many vehicles can be set up as flex-fuel vehicles so they can run equally well on ethanol or gasoline—in fact, there are around 20 million of these types of vehicles on US roads today! If automakers took serious steps to ensure all the cars and trucks in their lineups offered alternative fuel options, we’d be significantly closer to achieving fuel choice.
Alternative fuel vehicles are useless if consumers don’t have anywhere to fuel them up! Currently, of the 152,995 fueling stations here in America, only 15 percent offer an alternative fuel of some kind. For fuel choice to flourish in America, that number needs to grow exponentially, and that’s why we’ve worked with fuel retailers in the US to help advance this goal.
It’s not as though there’s a lack of governmental support. Across the United States there are more than 230 government programs that can help fueling infrastructure owners install alternative fuel dispensers. There’s even evidence to suggest that offering multiple fuels has improved business for fuel retailers. Get on it, fuel retailers! What’s good for the nation may just be good for your bottom line as well.
So there you have it. The solutions to the chicken—or egg, (again viewpoint)—part of the fuel choice problem. If automakers and fuel retailers follow through on these steps we’ll be one step closer to an America where we don’t import 40 percent of our oil, our air is cleaner, and there are millions more jobs.