Could on-demand fueling appeal to boaters?


My boat was low on fuel. To save the time of stopping at a gas station on my way to the launch ramp or tying up to a gas dock on my way out to fish, I had the boat’s gas tank topped off while she was sitting in my driveway and I was at work.

No, that didn’t actually happen, but it’s likely to soon. The latest target for disruption in this age of digital apps appears to be gas stations. A new concept, dubbed on-demand fueling, is already in successful operation, expected to grow and will likely impact boating in some way.

And why not? We already get food and household supplies delivered by Grubhub or DoorDash, the latter even using some delivery robots. The Amazon Prime Now app can deliver to the doorstep in 18 minutes. Or the just-announced Amazon Prime Wardrobe will allow customers to select three to 15 items and try the clothes for up to seven days, with free shipping and returns for the items they choose not to keep, much in the same way that Stitch Fix functions.

It’s all a changing retail paradigm. Direct-to-consumer is becoming a common model. We’re in an on-demand world where it seems like everything has a smartphone app and the slightest inconvenience is no longer acceptable to us.

So now we see an Uber for gasoline. Already delivering gas are names like WeFuel, Yoshi, Booster Fuels and Filld, among others operating in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas and likely coming to a city near you.

Simple. You just download the app, put in vehicle (or boat?) information, give your address, enter a window of time for delivery and, voila, a truck heads to your location.

Filld, for example, has delivered more than 1 million gallons of regular and premium gasoline since 2015 to some 5,000 customers across the San Francisco peninsula. The price is an average from nearby stations, plus a $5 delivery fee.

Customers “are getting some of their time back,” Filld co-founder and CEO Christopher Aubuchon said. “They order before they go to bed, they wake up, their car is full. They’re off to the day.”

The concept actually came from Aubuchon co-founder Scott Hempy. He attributes the idea to Air Force One.

Driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles, Hempy, annoyed by gas stops, reportedly told his wife how efficient Air Force One is at refueling in the air from a fuel plane flying above it. Why isn’t it that easy to fill up your car with gas, he asked. Hempy’s wife suggested a service that would pump needed gas just before you’re ready to leave, say, your office or home. Bingo: the Filld idea was born.

I suspect there might be a lot of appeal to the idea of having one’s boat fueled up while sitting idle in the driveway. Likely such deliveries would be comparable in price to the local gas stations and cheaper than a gas dock. Indeed, these delivery businesses would have at least one competitive edge other than pure convenience — a much lower overhead than gas stations or gas docks burdened with high property and equipment costs.

In another inventive move, Filld teamed up with Volvo so that drivers in the San Francisco area could order a fill-up through Volvo’s Concierge app, which communicates directly with Filld to determine the best time and route for the Filld driver to locate the car. A similar arrangement was made with Bentley Motors.

These fuel-delivery startups, then, are in serious pursuit of a piece of the U.S. gas market, which is said to account for about $300 billion of revenue a year.