Publication Detail

Driving Demand: What Can Gasoline Refueling Patterns Tell Us About Planning an Alternative Fuel Network



Suggested Citation:
Nicholas, Michael A. (2010) Driving Demand: What Can Gasoline Refueling Patterns Tell Us About Planning an Alternative Fuel Network. Journal of Transport Geography 18 (6), 738 - 749

Knowing which variables predict gasoline demand can help inform which are useful in determining future demand at an alternative fuel station such as those for bio-fuels, natural gas, hydrogen, or fast-charge electricity. This study explores the spatial distribution of demand by comparing two main classes of variables: those without a displacement component such as population in a census block group, and those that imply a vector or directionality such as vehicle kilometers traveled. The spatial distribution of these variables is compared to the spatial distribution of demand for gasoline using regression. Many models examining the transition from gasoline to an alternative fuel assume a demand pattern for fuel a priori in order to estimate potential demand at a future alternative fuel station. This paper studies not the models themselves but the variables used to predict demand. The results indicate that vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT) is the best variable to pinpoint where demand for fuel will occur. However, travel to the central business district of the metropolitan area does not appear to translate into demand for fuel in proportion to the VKT. While gasoline demand does appear to vary with population as well, the location of demand is much less specific than that predicted by VKT. The results also suggest that the route between home and the nearest freeway entrance may help predict a large portion of refueling and merits further investigation. This possible tendency can be used to create a new variable called “population-traffic” which appears to describe the spatial distribution of demand well. The good performance of this independent variable in regressions suggests that stations sited along the freeway may serve customers needs and provide the necessary concentration of demand for initial alternative fuel stations. A practical application of this work would be to help define refueling demand patterns in a rollout of alternative fueled vehicles in a neighborhood or town.

Keywords: Alternative fuel, hydrogen, station siting, gasoline demand patterns, refueling, networks