Gas station owners may want to take note. A relatively new service provided by several mostly west coast startups lets you cut out the middleman and get your car filled with gas at work or even at home.
Most of the companies providing the service admit their appeal is somewhat limited and they don’t really expect to disrupt the gas station sector – at least not yet.
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How Mobil Fuel Works
Companies like Booster Fuels and Filld provide apps to customers who use the app to request a fill-up while they are at work. Filld also services customers at their homes. So far, the fill-up service is limited and available mostly in California and Texas. If successful, it is expected to eventually expand.
Since gas sales are a thin margin business, mobile delivery operators buy directly from refineries which, they say, enable them to make sufficient profit. Most charge the local going rate for gas plus a small service charge.
Major Silicon Valley Adopters
So far companies like
The time savings, however, is not why workers use the service. The convenience of having someone come to your parked car while you work, fill the tank with gas and, in a nod to the good old days, wash the tires and clean the windshield, all for a small fee, is worth it to employees who feel like they are being treated special.
Shell Testing A Mobile Service
Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS) began testing a fuel-delivery service in the Netherlands this past spring. Shell’s service, which also uses an app, lets customers request a refill at work or at home or even while they are out shopping or dining in a restaurant.
Shell has faced regulatory problems with its service including negative feedback from residents who worry about increased air pollution. The company continues to maintain that the service is in very early stages and not yet ready for a larger rollout.
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There are two facets of home and workplace fuel delivery for investors to watch. One is the service itself and whether one of these startups ends up going public. The industry is a long way from that.
The second facet has to do with paying attention to corporations that use these companies and whether one or more of them decide the space is worth investing in by taking over a startup and ramping up the service in conjunction with services the company already provides – say grocery delivery. The current retail gasoline market is estimated at more than $300 billion a year. The downside is that average margins are only about 7%.