NATIONAL REPORT — Purple, We Fuel, Booster Fuels, Filld. These are just a few of the names in on-demand fuel delivery, a new industry that is growing and offering time-starved consumers the ability to fuel up without even being near their vehicle.
“We are able to fulfill the same thing as a gas station and it’s a convenience for people,” Chris Aubuchon, CEO of California-based Filld, told Convenience Store News. “We are coming to them and as time goes on, we will beat the price of gas stations.”
While these on-demand fuel delivery companies are entering the same market that convenience stores are serving, many of them are operating locally. And even with their plans for growth — some of them, national expansion plans — experts don’t see it exploding any time soon.
As with other new “on-demand” services, including on-demand grocery delivery, several small players will eventually converge into a few bigger companies, predicted John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute, a division of NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
“Any type of new development like this is going to be slow,” Eichberger said. “Early adopters of this [service] are not the traditional brick-and-mortar customer and may not be in the c-store, or even a profitable fuel customer.”
Still, even though on-demand fuel delivery is a new industry, it is already evolving. Filld has raised $3 million in seed funding, with plans to expand nationwide. We Fuel Inc., based in California, has nationwide expansion plans over the next three years, according to CEO Ale Donzis.
Players in this new space also have plans to add on other services besides fuel delivery to offer customers even more convenience. Purple, which currently serves the Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County areas of California and the Seattle area in Washington, will add “car services” to its menu in the future, and is thinking about options for electric cars.
“One day, the car by itself will order Purple,” said CEO Bruno Uzzan. “You won’t even have to think about it because as soon as the fuel level is low, the car will automatically reorder.”
We Fuel is likewise building up its infrastructure to make automatic reordering possible. It’s created We Fuel Driveo technology that will launch sometime this year, according to Donzis. Using an Internet-enabled device plugged into the car, Driveo will transmit the fuel tank level, identify the car’s location and automatically open the fuel latch for delivery without the customer having to do a thing. The next step would be adding delivery of c-store items.
“We don’t have a launch date for c-store items, but the software on our side is already there,” said Donzis, explaining that the Driveo technology would allow them to open the car door and place the ordered c-store items inside the vehicle. “In most cases, we could leave the bag in the vehicle, in the trunk or hand it to the customer.”
Editor’s note: Check out the May issue of Convenience Store News for more on the emergence of on-demand fuel delivery and whether c-store operators should be worried.