With so many fuel options out there, and “clean” options becoming more available and more popular, how do you know which ones are right for you and your customers? From petroleum diesel to biodiesel to renewable diesel and every blend combination you can think of, it can be overwhelming to know everything you need to know to make the best decision for your business.
Here are six things to consider as you determine which fuels to offer at your c-stores. My area of expertise is diesel alternatives, so my tips are focused on those as opposed to gasoline and its alternatives.
Obviously, you want to offer fuels with consistent availability and a strong supply chain. Research the availability of fuel for your locations. For example, renewable diesel can be hard to get if you’re not on the West Coast. Talk with your current fuel supplier about their processes and systems to be sure you feel confident. If they don’t have experience with alternative fuels, you might need to reach out to other suppliers. A supplier is even more useful if they can offer technical support, like a team of lab techs, chemists and/or engineers who know your fuels inside and out and can conduct testing for you.
- Your fuel infrastructure
Will you have to make any infrastructure changes? If so, are they worth it? Non-liquid fuels like natural gas or electric will require modifications. For the fuel I know best — biodiesel — you can use biodiesel blends in your existing infrastructure. If you decide to offer biodiesel, here are other questions to think about: Are you blending your own or having it delivered already blended? What is your tank setup? Installing the infrastructure to blend your own biodiesel is not difficult, and it pays for itself pretty quickly.
- What vehicles your customers drive
You probably know that the vast majority of light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks have diesel engines. But are you aware of how many passenger vehicles are starting to offer diesel models? The Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Gladiator will soon be able to run on diesel. Other brands on the market have been running on diesel for a few years, including the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Chevy Silverado 1500 and Mazda CX-5.
Because of this, you’ll want to have both gasoline and diesel options available. A significant number of c-stores do not offer diesel, so doing so can give you a competitive advantage. While you’re at it, why not blend biodiesel into your diesel to capture those customers looking for cleaner-burning options?
- Performance benefits
Fleet drivers who fuel up at your c-store want to know they’re getting a quality fuel that will keep them running and not cause problems. One indication of a fuel’s quality is its Cetane number. Biodiesel’s Cetane number is higher than petroleum diesel’s, providing a shorter ignition time and better performance. Biodiesel also adds lubricity that ULSD doesn’t. Without enough lubrication, fuel injection components can experience unnecessary wear and damage. Biodiesel has lower emissions than petroleum diesel, including particulate matter, so it causes fewer issues with diesel particulate filters.
- Sustainability goals
Even if your company doesn’t have sustainability goals yet, many of your fleet customers may have them or are driving on behalf of companies that do. Regular drivers increasingly care about their carbon footprint, too. More states and municipalities are implementing policies around emissions reductions too. Offering renewable fuels is one way you can support your customers’ goals. Not all fuels reduce emissions to the same degree, however, so I recommend you do your research. To use the fuel I know best as an example, my company ran calculations that showed petroleum diesel emits about 580% more greenhouse gases than 100% biodiesel. A drop-in fuel that works that well to lower emissions is a no-brainer for many of your customers
- Diversifying your offerings
This helps you reach a wider audience. As more vehicles support different fuel options, your customers want to know you can deliver on what they need. When you have what they need at the pump, they may be more likely to spend money inside as well. Here’s a travel center that is experiencing just that. Plus, it’s smart to diversify in the long run so you aren’t stuck when fuel demands change.
If you’re interested in learning more about the best alternative fuel options for your c-store, I would be happy to discuss it with you: [email protected].