Drivers of electric cars know all about the convenience of home refuelling. Now, going out of their way to stand on a blustery garage forecourt could become a thing of the past for drivers of diesel cars.
Currently one of the big benefits electric cars have is that drivers with home or workplace charging never need to visit a fuel station. But a new service is promising the same feature for drivers of conventionally fuelled motors. It currently operates in London where its bosses claim it saves drivers 100 hours a month by taking away the need to go to a filling station.
How does home refuelling work?
Using a smartphone app, you book a time to have your car refuelled. Payment is pre-authorised – just like when you pay at the pump to fill up rather than in the kiosk. Using the app you say how much fuel you want, when you want it, and put in the exact location of your car. A representative from Zebra Fuel then comes along and refuels the car.
Do you have to be with your car?
No. If you’re not available at the specified time, you leave your car’s fuel filler flap open. The app sends you a reminder 10 minutes before the time the refuelling is booked for. “We’re like a Formula One pit stop for your car, van, truck or coach,” said founder Reda Bennis. “We can also do fuel deliveries through the night so customers can wake up to a full car outside their house or a depot of fully fuelled vehicles.”
How expensive is it?
The company claims that it benchmarks its fuel prices against local filling stations. It then adds a small service charge. For off-peak fill ups this is £2.99. For filling up at peak times, it’s £3.99.
Isn’t it a bit dangerous?
Rather than using fuel tankers, Zebra Fuel has specially converted vans. Its refuelers are trained employees of the company. And the firm claims it meets industry safety standards. In addition, it currently only supplies diesel. This is much less combustible than petrol, posing a significantly lower fire risk. However, the company is planning to offer petrol refuelling in the near future.
How does it make its money?
Running a fuel station is an expensive business. Sites have to be large and require a lot of upkeep. By replacing this with a fleet of vans, Zebra Fuel claims it can be a viable business and keep its prices competitive. However, profit margins on fuel are notoriously small – many garages make more money out of selling coffee than petrol and diesel. Bearing that in mind, Zebra Fuel is looking into offering more services in the future. According to Bennis, Zebra wants to become the Amazon for your car.
Where is it available?
Currently this is a London-only service. But Zebra Fuels has raised £1.8 million in venture capital to take the business to other areas of the country. “Ultimately our goal is to replace the petrol station and make filling up your car faster, cheaper, less harmful to the environment and hassle free,” adds Bennis.
Do other companies offer the same service?
Home refuelling is new to the UK. However, it’s common in the US where companies such as Filld, WeFuel, Yoshi, Purple and Booster Fuels offer the service. But those companies are coming up against resistance from local fire departments who claim the practice is dangerous.
How are fuel stations reacting?
Recently BP launched BPme. This is an app that enables drivers to pay for their fuel without entering the service station’s kiosk. BPme also gives a choice of paying a small amount to invest in carbon reduction projects. Shell too has an app called Fill Up & Go. This lets drivers pay for their fuel using PayPal or Apple Pay, again without entering the fuel station shop.