Propel Launches California Alt-Fuel Stations

propelimage1California’s stricter air emission standards just got a nod from a friend in the White House, but are California residents clamoring for more stations where they can pump biofuels into their cars? Propel Fuels, a startup that recently moved its headquarters to Sacramento, Calif., is hoping they are, and on Wednesday the company plans to launch its first five stations in the state.

The new stations are located in Northern California in the Sacramento area and on Wednesday the company will host a kickoff event at one of them in Rocklin, Calif. (It starts 10AM for those interested in stopping by.) The Propel Clean Fuel Point-branded stations were largely in the Washington state area up until recently, and all of its stations currently sell E85 (ethanol blended to 85 percent) and biodiesel. Propel CEO Rob Elam says eventually they will charge electric and hydrogen vehicles, too.

While Elam wouldn’t disclose how much each station cost to build, he said Propel used some grant money from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The stations can’t be that expensive as Propel has only raised a Series A round of $4.75 million from @Ventures and Nth Power, and the company owns and operates the stations itself, and also doesn’t plan on raising more money anytime soon, says Elam.

propelimage3It’ll be interesting to see how many station customers are average biofuel-using Californians vs. employees of the state, which has agreed to purchase fuel from Propel. Elam called Sacramento the intersection of public policy, public funding and entrenched companies (in the oil and auto industries), which is a good place to be for a clean car startup. Particularly in 2009, Elam says, if a clean car company can’t navigate Sacramento, it will be at a serious disadvantage.

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