The opposite of ubiquitous: How early adopters of fast-filling alt-fuel vehicles adapt to the sparsity of stations

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20 Scopus citations


Transportation is proving to be the most difficult sector for reducing U.S. carbon emissions. With 86% of American commuters continuing to drive to work, meeting the urgent climate-change challenge requires a pronounced shift to alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs). Standing in the way of this transition, however, is the dearth of conveniently located refueling and recharging stations. This paper argues that we cannot generalize from the refueling habits of people driving gasoline cars, or from their stated preferences for where they would need or want stations, because they formed those habits and preferences while using a ubiquitous network of gasoline stations. We also must distinguish among the different behaviors engendered by slow and/or home charging of electric vehicles, flexible refueling and recharging of hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles, and fast refueling/charging AFVs. Therefore, this paper reviews the limited literature on the revealed preferences of where actual early adopters of single-fuel, fast-filling AFVs choose to refuel or recharge when faced with the reality of a sparse network of stations. Refueling preferences have been revealed by (1) surveys asking drivers where they usually refuel, (2) intercept surveys at stations, and (3) GPS and card-swipe data. The few existing studies suggest that drivers adapt by focusing more on convenience of locations than price. Drivers refuel more frequently at the same stations, at higher tank or battery levels, more on work-anchored trips, more in the middle of trips, less often near home, more often on their way, and take larger detours compared with drivers of gasoline and diesel vehicles. To put these results in a broader context, the paper compares them briefly with revealed-preference results for slow charging of electric vehicles and with stated-preference results for hydrogen and similar fuels. The paper discusses the implications of these findings for the initial rollout of fast-refueling station infrastructure and identifies gaps in what we know about actual AFV refueling and recharging behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-57
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Compressed natural gas (CNG)
  • Electric vehicle fast charging
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle
  • Refueling station choice
  • Revealed preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • General Environmental Science


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