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Find Alternative Fueling Stations and Learn Something, Too

July 20, 2009 - 7:00pm

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A couple of weeks ago it was hybrid electric vehicle week and, always one to be fashionably late, I thought I'd jump in and talk about some of our fun vehicle-related tools.

It's probably pretty obvious from the sorts of posts I've done in the past, but I love interactive tools and applications on the Web. EERE has a number of interesting applications and gadgets, and today I thought I'd talk about a few hiding in the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (hereafter referred to as the AFDC.)

First off: the Alternative Fueling Station Locator (also available for mobile when you need to find a station and you're away from home.) We've talked about this before, and linked to it a few times, but it remains one of those tools worthy of the occasional reminder.

Basically: Plug in your location or address, and it will find fueling stations that offer biodiesel, compressed natural gas, electric, ethanol, hydrogen, liquefied natural gas, or propane for your vehicle. And for most folks, that's probably what you need: an easy way to find fuel for your car.

But if you're less interested in getting a quick answer to "Where can I power up my electric car" and want more of an excuse to look at the data and figures, you might want to check out TransAtlas, an interactive map recently launched on the AFDC and designed by the good folks here at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

TransAtlas is more complicated, but it has far more information in it. Not only can you look up all the fueling station types that are available in the Alternative Fueling Station Locator, but you can compare that information with relevant data in the area: Do you want to see where in the country people most use hybrid-electric, flex-fuel, or diesel vehicles? Then you can see the vehicle density for a particular area. Do you want to see where hydrogen production faculties are? Which areas have ethanol capacity, and which areas are making use of it? That's easy, too.

You can set the map to display all sorts of things—highways, freeways, county lines—and then use the "Query" tool to look up information on, say, the names and locations of the fueling stations or the production capacity of production facilities.

So, from a consumer perspective, it might not be as downright practical as its sister program, but it's still extremely interesting to look around. TransAtlas lets you visualize where alternative fuels are coming from and see not only who's selling them, but who's producing them.

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