This story originally aired on KERA News.
The concept behind Booster Fuels is simple: Open up an app on your smartphone when you get to work, pick a timeframe for delivery, unlock your gas cap and go about your business. Someone will stop by and fill up your tank.
It’s like Uber for your gas tank, or GrubHub for fuel, though the company’s founder, Frank Mycroft, isn’t a fan of comparisons like that. Mycroft founded Booster Fuels last year.
“I believe that this is fundamentally the 21st century way to deliver a product like this. I also think that when we look at the numbers, we save about one pound of CO2 emissions every time we deliver gas to a car.”
Americans make an estimated 37 million trips to the gas station to fill up the tank every day, so that could add up to a lot. All those trips, they also take time, time spent doing something that surveys find people really dislike.
“The fact that we get thousands of families that extra 15 minutes a day to do whatever it is they want to do, that feels really, really good,” Mycroft says.
Mycroft hasn’t always been in the app-based fuel delivery space, as the business school set might call it. Before he started Booster Fuels, he was in the space space. He worked for NASA , Boeing, and a company that wants to mine asteroids. He’s got four degrees: one each from Princeton and Harvard, and two from Stanford. Also, he’s 30.
Elizabeth Tolentino has been a Booster customer for about four months. She’s a marketing assistant at a big real estate developer in Fort Worth.
“I was one of those people who had to carry a gas tank in the back of my car because I frequently ran out of gas because I avoided going to the gas station. That gas tank is no longer in my trunk,” she says.
Another customer said it makes life easier to not have to worry about fitting in a trip to the gas station between leaving work and taking his kids to their sports practices.
Booster has another boast: Their gas is often cheaper than it is at the pump. There are no stores to run, and it’s purchased from the same suppliers who sell to gas stations.
But not everyone’s ready to jump on board yet.
“Delivering fuel is not like delivering gallons of milk,” says Jeff Lenard from the National Association of Convenience Stores, which represents about 127,000 gas station owners. He thinks app-based fuel delivery is a cool idea but worries about consumer protections and safety issues. Gasoline is a hazardous material, after all.
“With a gas station there are certain requirements you’re forced to adhere to, whether it’s fire suppression or whether it’s maintaining or managing any sort of spill,” Lenard says. “Those things are not present if you’re filling up in somebody’s driveway.”
Booster Fuels answers this by saying that they’ve got top-trained drivers, like William Rich, who showed off one of Booster’s retrofitted purple pickup trucks. He used to deliver gas to gas stations in Houston, and he’s trained to handle hazardous materials. A company spokesman also points out that Booster complies with Texas Department of Transportation and Bureau of Weights and Measures standards.
When Rich pulls up to the gray BMW he’s been sent to fill up, he rolls out a hose, turns on the truck’s pump, opens the tank, and starts fueling, being very careful not to spill.
“If we have one drop of fuel either hit the car or the ground, that’s a failure on our part, we don’t accept that at all,” he says.
While the gas is pumping, he cleans the windows, and leaves a handwritten note saying ‘thanks.’ And that’s it. Done.
If this sounds great to you, here’s the bad news: You probably can’t sign up yet. Booster’s only working at a handful of office parks in North Texas and Silicon Valley right now. But they’re expanding.
“Someday I think Booster will be not just an option or a luxury, I think it’ll be the standard,” Rich says. “You push a button to get pizza, why not push a button to get gas?”
In the near future, maybe you’ll never need to go to the gas station for gas. As for the snacks and sodas? Booster Fuels has no plans to deliver those.