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Gas delivery startups want to change the world – but will they blow it up first?

It is hard to imagine a less hospitable niche for a startup to enter than gasoline – a combustible commodity that is (one hopes) being innovated into obsolescence.

And yet, over the past 18 months, at least six startups have launched some variation on the theme of “Uber for gas” – your car’s tank gets refilled while it is parked somewhere.

Gas delivery startups want to change the world â but will they blow it up first? | Technology | The Guardian

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The companies generally source their gasoline from the same distributors that supply 10,000-gallon tankers to retail gas stations. But the app companies put the fuel into the back of pickup trucks or specially designed mini-tankers. Booster Fuels only services cars in open air, corporate parking lots on private property, but other companies offer to refill your car wherever it’s parked.

“Some of the [companies] are using 1,000-gallon tanks,” warned Greg Andersen, division chief of the California office of the state fire marshall. “If they’re going into the basement parking lot of a high rise, that actually is a large concern.”

Several of the startups treat their regulatory compliance as a selling point.

“You’re supposed to have a fire extinguisher,” said Chris Aubuchon, co-founder of Filld. “We have two.”

Yoshi’s Alexander said, “We’re using DOT-certified equipment. … We’ve had our trucks inspected by multiple parties, including the highway patrol.”

But it’s not clear that Filld and Yoshi actually are in compliance with the law.

Both companies offer their service in San Francisco, where Lt Jonathan Baxter of the fire department says mobile fuel delivery is not currently permitted. He added that none of the companies have even sought permits.

“We are not saying that we are not ever going to permit this,” he said. “We are saying that we are working with other state agencies to figure out what is going to be best.”

In the meantime, Baxter is asking members of the public to report any fuel delivery trucks they observe to the department for inspection, corrective measures and possible violations.

Filld CEO Aubuchon responded to Baxter’s remarks in a statement, saying: “We have carefully studied the legal requirements, operate within them, and serve our customers in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”

Andersan suggests that the companies currently operating in California are exploiting a “grey area” in the fire code. There are regulations that allow for mobile fueling with diesel, but the code is silent on gasoline, presumably because no one was offering the service before last year.

Regulations aside, I just don't know that there's a lot of need for delivered gas right now. 

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