Finding Alternative Fuel Filling Stations

The Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFDC), sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy, is a great resource for information about relative fuel efficiency and other pros and cons of front-running alternate fuels. It also maps more than 6,100 alternative fueling locations across the United States. These can be searched on the AFDC website by entering the address or ZIP code [source: Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center]. Other sites dedicated to specific alternative fuel types may provide updates about new station openings and other developments.

Current AFDC alternate fuel station counts reveal emerging patterns of alternate fuel availability regionally and around the country [source: Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center]. Here are a few facts compiled from a recent AFDC report:

Flex-Fuel vehicle owners have 1,860 locations across the lower 48 states where they can fill up with E85 for green driving. Minnesota has the most with 358 locations, while Illinois is second with 187. Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin each have more than 100 E85 locations. New York has just 30 stations and New Jersey has none. Several New England states also have no E85 stations, and in all of California, there are only 19 stations where driver's can fill up with E85.

Biodiesel can be found at 691 stations in the United States, with at least one located in every state. South Carolina leads the country with 75 stations; neighboring North Carolina has 69 more. In the Pacific Northwest, Washington State reports 42 biodiesel stations, followed by Oregon with 36, and California has 48.

At least 777 stations offer compressed natural gas (CNG) nationwide; 189 are located in California. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is available at only 37 outlets nationally, 27 of them in California.

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, or propane), offered at more than 2,100 locations nationwide, is the most widely available alternative fuel. Oil-rich Texas leads in LPG availability, with 485 stations dispensing this fossil fuel.

Hydrogen initiatives have been strongest in California, where 27 of the 59 hydrogen-fueling stations nationwide are located. Michigan comes in second, with seven stations. Thirty-two states have no hydrogen fueling stations - not yet, anyway.

California supports eco-friendly driving with more than 400 public plug-in electric charging stations, many of them free-use solar-powered units. No other state even comes close, with runners-up Oregon and Massachusetts reporting 14 and 12 stations, respectively. Twelve states have fewer than 10 public charging stations, while 32 states report they have none.

Use the AFDC and other similar Web sites to determine the convenience of alternate fuels in your locale. Remember to ask station attendants in your area about access, vehicle compatibility and hours of operation -- information you'll assuredly want to know before you "go green" with an alternative fuel vehicle.

For more information about alternative fuel filling stations or other related topics, follow the links on the next page.