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Propel Fuels is a California-based renewable fuels company founded in Seattle in 2004. The brand has grown to operate 30 fueling stations in the west, with hundreds more in planning and development stages over coming years. They asked Stoke to help them navigate the path forward.

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Propel was an initiator of ethanol E/85 and biodiesel sales, seeking to lessen domestic dependency on foreign governments, assure long-term price stability to consumers, and mitigate the environmental challenges of petroleum.

Over the past decade, corn-based ethanol became a well-established drop-in additive, to extend the resource of petroleum, corresponding innovations in engine technology spawned the first generation of “flex fuel” vehicles, capable of running on high mixes of more sustainable, widely available plant-based fuels.

By 2011 federal subsidies for ethanol expired challenging the renewable fuels industry to compete head-to-head with Big Oil. At this time, Propel approached Stoke to review the company’s business plan, changing market dynamics, and emerging consumer needs, to create a high-performance brand.


Through research we discovered that interest in Propel is shared by and advanced from the ends of the political spectrum: Environmental consciousness causes consumers to seek viable alternatives to entrenched oil interests. National interests and patriotism compel other consumers to liberate our economic future from foreign, often despotic governments.

In consultation with Propel, we determined the challenge to differentiate on the basis of fuel products alone: Long-term, commodity products will come to market; Short-term, alternative fuels are subject to politicized scrutiny based on some moral purity tests. Clearly, no fuel is neutral on the environment – and as the market for alternatives grows, ethanol will be sourced from foreign feedstocks like Brazilian sugar cane.

We resolved that Propel’s brand centers instead on our relationship to the automobile: A relationship far deeper than the appeal of sculpted metal, but instead for the love for what our vehicles deliver: Our Independence.

From the liberation we find on the open highway to the simple freedom to move about our busy lives, we place an absolute premium on our independence – our mobility. But as we have all come to understand, that mobility can come at a cost to the environment, our well being and national sovereignty. Americans prize their independence. And their vehicles provide the freedom to move about their busy lives. But that freedom can come at a cost to a nation’s health, the environment and the economy, and would remain as long as mobility was bound by a lack of fuel choices.

We realized that Propel’s brand trades on the fact that for too long we have had the terms of our mobility dictated by a fundamental lack of choice, fueling our addiction to Oil. Propel believes that America should control its economic, social and environmental future – moving away from the political and economic grip of conventional sources and progressing towards renewable, sustainable energy.

Propel’s leadership adopted our brand strategy program – “Fueling American Progress” – and set-about designing a customer experience that offered consumers new, more sustainable choices in fuel while respecting their values and long-term interests.

We clearly realized the impracticality of trying to change the world overnight. But our approach recognizes that consumers can – right now, today – begin making thousands of small gestures that, over time, can lead to a dramatically different and better world.

We called this principle Clean Mobility™.


Stoke worked with Propel to plan and design Clean Mobility™ Centers – stations for customers who deserve better than the status quo.

The stations were sited and designed to make alternatives to conventional petroleum both convenient and cost-competitive, empowering customers to make clean, high-performance, renewable fuels a part of their daily lives. Through technology and design Stoke helped consumers manage the growing complexity in fueling decisions, including ethanol, biodiesel, electric, hybrid, natural gas, and hydrogen – with a dedication to bring consumers the most sustainable, best available products that meet their vehicle’s requirements.

We designed a station to deliver the Clean Mobility experience, including; free bike repair stations, on-site composting, window washing using capture rain-water and bio-degradable soaps, and free tire-inflation services (for better mileage) – and even at-the-pump carbon offset purchases. Technology will allow consumers and fleets to manage their usage and carbon-reduction, to accommodate future tax incentives & economic incentives for reduced fuel usage.

The first Clean Mobility™ Center opened in Fullerton California in May, 2012. In corresponding news coverage, Bloomberg Businessweek called it “The gas station of the future…” and “…the Apple Store of the alternative energy market.”

In designing the infrastructure for today’s renewable fuel vehicles, we make further progress towards a more promising future.

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Brand Design
Brand Strategy