Fuels Drive Awareness at NACS

Discussion focuses partly on enabling consumer choice at the pump and why E15 is growing in sale volume when offered.

President Donald Trump announced on Oct. 9 that he would seek the lifting of an existing federal regulation that limits the sale of E15-blend gasoline during summer months. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prohibits summer sales of E15 in certain areas, June through September, because of smog concerns.

For the ban to be removed, the EPA must draft and finalize a rule in the spring.

- Advertisement -

Fuel policy was addressed during an educational session at NACS Show 2018, headed by a group of industry experts who have developed progressive alternative fuel programs at their respective companies. The Fuels Institute: The Road Less Traveled – When to Try New Fuels looked at how a growing number of c-store operations have expanded fuel offerings to include E15, E85 and charging stations for electric vehicles (EV).

John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute and the moderator said the market for electric vehicles is evolving and many of these concerns are being addressed through advancements in technology.

The discussion focused partly on enabling consumer choice at the pump and why E15 is growing in sale volume when offered.

Joel Hirschboeck recently became vice president of fuels at Giant Eagle/GetGo. Before that, Hirschboeck had served as general manager of fuel marketing and procurement at Kwik Trip. Under his watch, Kwik Trip rolled out 300 E15 sites in just four months.

He explained that before c-store retailers consider delving into alternative fuel options, including EV, there are important questions to ponder.

“What is your footprint? What is your market base? What are your demographics,” Hirschboeck said.

FUELING CHANGE

Since Sheetz introduced E15—or Unleaded 88 as it marketed by the company—to 60 of the company’s stores in North Carolina in 2016, the company has sold an equivalent of 1 billion-miles worth of the blended fuel. Michael Lorenz, executive vice president of Petroleum Supply Sheetz, Inc. said currently, the chain offers E15 at 240 locations, E85 at 249 sites, and 30 locations with EV chargers.

Sheetz will continue to back E15 because as Lorenz explained, the fuel can be a “value proposition,” can drive loyalty and can be a business differentiator.

Matt Spackman, vice president of fuels for Kum & Go LC, West Des Moines, Iowa, which has more than 400 stores in 11 states, has responsibility for all aspects of the fuel procurement and retail strategies, including pricing, distribution and trading.

Spackman explained that the convenience chain began offering E15 because it offers higher octane, better engine performance and a lower price. It was last year that Kum & Go expanded its alternative choices more by installing EV charging stations.

The West Des Moines, Iowa-based chain has at least eight stores with EV charging stations. This includes six Level 2 stations at five stores in Iowa and one in Arkansas. The chain also has a ChargePoint charging station in Thornton, Colo. as well as a Tesla Supercharger at a Sherburn, Minn.-based location.

Spackman said before committing capital to an alternative fuel program, retailers must watch trends, look at partnering with stakeholders to defray costs and evaluate infrastructure needs. Of course, whether its ethanol-blended fuels or EV adoption, education also should be a key priority.

“When you offer these new fuels, there is some customer education required,” Spackman said.

NACS Show 2018 concluded Oct. 10.