The North American Portable Refueling Industry
Over the past 15 years, the portable refueling industry has evolved through several leaps of innovation. Some of these changes were brought about by improvements and advancements in available materials whereas other changes were made through product design and innovation generated within the industry. The most recent changes were driven by government regulation.
From Metal to Plastic
In the early years, the portable fuel container (PFC) was made from metal, with the industry making only minor improvements to the shape, size and configuration of the typical PFC. With the advent of plastics and plastic molding processes, PFC manufacturers switched from metal to plastic as the material of choice for the production of containers. Indirectly, this shift from metal to plastic would drive environmental agencies to pursue regulations to control these products.
Regulatory Influences on the PFC industry
The environmental regulations had their genesis in California when, in 1999, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the first environmental regulation to control pollution from PFCs. This regulation was revised in 2005 by FTT consultant Dennis Goodenow. The revised regulation required that all PFCs sold in California include permeation control, evaporation control, and pass a performance test to reduce spillage.
Industry Growing Pains
Although the permeation and evaporation control requirements were fairly easily incorporated into existing products, the performance testing to reduce spillage proved difficult to meet. Furthermore, there were challenges in satisfying the expectations and needs of the consumer. Many consumers complained that the new products were difficult to operate and spilled more than before. In response to this consumer dissatisfaction, one company developed a PFC that was intended to meet both consumer expectations and CARB requirements. The new product incorporated a hose and nozzle attachment and was initially well received by consumers. However, it quickly fell into disfavor due to poor design, unreliable technology, and lack of user-friendly features and durability.
More Regulation, More Innovation
In response to consumer complaints, CARB revised its PFC Regulation in 2005, replacing the performance standard with new incentives to improve visibility and control, with the hopes that the PFC industry would develop new and innovative designs to reduce spillage and simultaneously meet consumer demands.
United States Environmental Protection Agency Regulation
In 2007, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) made the newly revised CARB Regulation a national standard. The adoption of this regulation has subsequently triggered another flurry of attempts at new product design within the industry, all aimed at meeting government regulations and consumer expectations.
Where the industry is today
After considerable regulation and effort by CARB and US EPA to motivate change in the industry, most PFCs on the market today still employ the low performing pouring process. Despite some innovation in recent years relating to spouts used in conjunction with PFCs, these products remain difficult to use, unsafe, and environmentally damaging. FTT however has stepped up to the plate and developed a completely new and innovative fuel dispensing system that deviates from the fuel pouring products on the market today. The FTT system includes, for the first time in any portable refueling product, an active automatic shut-off system and active displaced vapour control.