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Clean Mobility Center, focusing on alternative fuels, opens in O.C.

May 16, 2012|By Susan Carpenter
  • Propel's Clean Mobility Center opens Wednesday in Fullerton, offering a gas-ethanol flex fuel, several types of biodiesel, regular gas, the ability to buy carbon offsets and even a bike repair station. The company plans to build 200 stations in California.
Propel's Clean Mobility Center opens Wednesday in Fullerton, offering… (Propel Fuels )

Jamie Caissie says he's picky about the gas he puts in his GMC Sierra truck. For years, the 35-year-old flooring contractor only filled up at 76 brand stations, but on a recent Monday, he decided to try something new: the Propel Clean Mobility Center in Fullerton, which sells E85 flex fuel and biodiesel, along with traditional gasoline, and also allows customers to purchase carbon offsets at the pump.

"My truck says it can take flex fuel, and it's 70 cents cheaper," said Caissie, who lives in Fullerton and often travels to San Diego and Northern California for work.

The Clean Mobility Center, which soft-opened May 4 and officially opens today, is one of the first fueling stations of its kind in the nation. Propel Fuels plans to build 200 Clean Mobility Centers throughout the state, aided by grants from the California Energy Commission and U.S. Department of Energy.

"People are looking for alternatives. They're looking for transportation options that aren't dependent on petroleum," said Matt Horton, chief executive of Propel Fuels in Redwood City, Calif., whose new Clean Mobility Center also offers a self-service bicycle repair station, recycling containers, free air and water and maps of rail stations, bike paths and busways. "Gasoline sales in this country are declining, which we think is good news. People are looking for other ways to get around. We recognized there weren't enough places for people to choose cleaner alternatives."

Horton said he eventually hopes to add electric-vehicle charging stations and natural-gas and hydrogen pumps to Clean Mobility Centers in areas where the surrounding communities are adopting those types of alternative-fuel vehicles. Horton said Propel analyzes vehicle registrations, traffic patterns and demographics to determine what types of fuel to make available.

"Fuel choices are going to continue to change for many years," Horton said. "The mix of vehicles available and consumer preferences will change over time."

There are 16 pumps at the new Fullerton station, eight of which are for gasoline. The four pumps for E85 are colored yellow and topped with a sign that lists all the cars that are flex-fuel compatible. The four pumps for biodiesel are green and evenly split between fuel made with either 5% or 20% recycled vegetable oil.

The company also has a buy-local philosophy. Horton said Propel makes the E85 and biodiesel it sells and often sources the ethanol it uses in its 85% ethanol-blend E85 gasoline from California producers. Its biodiesel often comes from local companies recycling base oils generated from restaurants in their own communities.

Every pump is also marked with an 800 telephone number connected to live customer service representatives to answer questions.

"We view these centers as an educational opportunity," Horton said.

Additional signage at the Clean Mobility Center's regular gas pumps gives drivers the option to donate $1 of their fuel transactions to clean-air projects that offset the carbon associated with their refueling.

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