New Map Takes the Mystery Out of Alternative Fuel

DOE launches new version of alternative fuel station locatorOne of the key roadblocks to alternative fuel vehicles is the uncertainty of finding a place to fuel up when you need it, especially on long road trips. Funny, that sounds just like the situation faced by adventurous travelers just a few generations ago, who ditched the old reliable horse and carriage in favor of  gasoline-powered mobility.

Somehow our automotive forerunners managed to deal with the scarcity of fuel stations, and the rest is history.

Now, we’re at the cusp of another historic energy transition, only this time travelers are getting a bit more of an assist from the federal government, in the form of the Department of Energy’s online Alternative Fuel Station Locator. The interactive map was launched last year to help alternative fuel vehicle drivers and fleet managers find fuel stations. The agency has just released a new version of the fuel map with even more details for adventurous drivers. That includes a new mobile version, too.

A detour around range anxiety

Before we get into the Alternative Fuel Station Locator, we’d be remiss if we failed to mention solutions like GM’s Chevy Volt. The highly rated Volt is equipped with a long range battery and a generously sized gas tank, both of which power an electric drive.

With two fuel sources at hand, Volt drivers can pretty much drive anywhere, for as long as they please, though even when you’re driving with conventional gas, it’s still a good idea to keep your eye on the fuel gauge. After all, to this day it’s not uncommon for drivers of conventional vehicles to run out of gas.

The Alternative Fuel Station Locator

The fuel station locator is a creation of the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC). The latest version lists more than 10,000 stations that are open to the public in all 50 states.

The fuel types represented are biodiesel, ethanol, electricity, hydrogen, natural gas and propane.

One highlight is the number of electric vehicle charging stations such as those installed by ChargePoint and Ecotality, with over 4,600 locations.

More information for green trip planning

The new version enables you to search for a fueling station by state, city or ZIP code, and map out a route along those stations. You can also get contact information and payment options for each station.

If you’re a fleet manager, you can do some advance planning by using the fuel station locator’s research tools. Those include totaling the number of stations in a given geographic area, sorting the data by fuel type, and transferring the data to a spreadsheet that can be integrated with information about your company.

An interactive tool for green fleets

In addition to using the station locator for internal operations, companies can also use it as a promotional tool.

If your company has an alternative fuel charging station open to the public, the new version of the locator makes it easy to submit the location, and you can embed the data in your company’s website.

There are also some intriguing bonus features that are best described by the folks at AFDC:

The tool’s station data is also available via data feeds from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s developer site. Developers who access the data can tailor it to their own interests and geographical needs, to reveal anything from natural gas stations in Seattle to biodiesel stations in Alabama. They can also create mashups that combine the station data with data from other sources to provide new, unique tools and capabilities.

More green goodies for green fleets

Earlier this month, AFDC launched another green fleet tool called the Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool, which helps fleet managers weigh the benefits of  biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, natural gas and propane against their operations through a series of “what if” scenarios.

The new tool also helps fleet managers check into foundational fuel conservation measures such as idle reduction.

[Image: EV charging station, courtesy of OregonDOT, flickr]

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Tina writes frequently for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

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