Automotive App of the Week: GreenFuel
An App for Finding Alternative Fueling Stations
High gas prices and a growing interest in more sustainable fuels are nudging more drivers into electric cars and alternative-fuel vehicles. If you're one of those people, you'll have to figure out where best to fuel your Toyota Prius Plug-In or Honda Civic Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for your daily commute or a cross-country road trip.
There are plenty of iPhone apps to help you locate standard gas stations and some that locate electric-vehicle charging stations. But GreenFuel is the only one designed specifically to find those far-flung alt-fuel stations and EV charging locations, too.
Easy Fuel-Finding Interface
First off, bypass the free "lite" version of the app that only searches for CNG filling stations within a 15-mile radius. It really limits your options. Downloading the full $1.99 version locates more popular alt-fuel stops, such as charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles and stations for CNG, biodiesel and ethanol, as well as more esoteric fuels like hydrogen. (Our search for hydrogen fueling locations turned up empty, but the app developer says that as new stations of all types open, they'll be added to GreenFuel.)
GreenFuel has a very simple interface that's an overlay to the ubiquitous Google Maps app. Search choices are "Zip/City, State" or "Nearest Me," and you have the option to filter searches by tapping the Settings gear icon. That choice lets you select various fuels and choose distances from 5 to 300 miles.
Pins Mark the Fuel Stops
Searching for alt-fuel locations in the Los Angeles area, I found an abundance of green and red pins dotting the map. Unfortunately, the red pins denote private facilities — mostly belonging to local municipalities and private companies.
There was, however, an abundance of green pins, showing public electric plug-in stations as well as several CNG locales. All would make anyone's regular commute or a drive into an unfamiliar area much easier. Tapping on one of these pins opened an info box providing all the relevant details.
For instance, I mapped out a theoretical road trip from L.A. to the high-desert town of Palmdale. A tap on one of the green pins in Palmdale displayed the address, phone number, fuel type (in this case, CNG), nozzle style and gas-pressure level (PSI) of the location. Checking places farther afield, such as San Francisco and New York, yielded mixed results. The Bay Area showed an abundance of alt-fuel stations, while the New York search turned up the paltry sum of two. Of course, that probably says more about the state of alt-fuel availability than the capabilities of the app.
Keeping It Simple
GreenFuel doesn't have much else under its hood, apart from a handy list view of your search results and a one-tap solution for printing them on a connected AirPrint device. On our wish list for the next version are three things: better coverage in more metro areas, a fuel-price tracker that lets users see the best prices, and community-comment elements, so users can add notes on various stations. Other than that, GreenFuel is the go-to co-pilot for keeping your electric car or alt-fuel vehicle from running out of juice.