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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Turn of the century refueling: A review of innovations in early gasoline refueling methods and analogies for hydrogen


During the first decades of the 20th century, a variety of gasoline refueling methods supported early US gasoline vehicles and successfully alleviated consumer concerns over refueling availability. The refueling methods employed included cans, barrels, home refueling outfits, parking garage refueling facilities, mobile stations, hand carts and curb pumps. Only after robust markets for gasoline vehicles had been firmly established did the gasoline service station become the dominant refueling method. The present study reviews this history and draws analogies with current and future efforts to introduce hydrogen as a fuel for vehicles. These comparisons hold no predictive power; however, there is heuristic value in an historical review of the first successful and large-scale introduction of a vehicle fuel. From an energy policy perspective, these comparisons reinforce the importance of a long-term and portfolio approach to support for technology development and innovation.

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