Propel fuels up with $21M for green gas stations

If you hate the mere idea of oil companies and gas stations, but have to fill up your gas tank with something, then perhaps you’re one of the new converts to Propel Fuels’ over two dozen alternative fuel stations that have popped up around California and Washington state in recent years. On Tuesday the startup plans to announce that it’s fueled up with $21 million in equity and debt to attempt to raise its number of stations to more than 200 around the U.S. over the coming years.

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I mentioned Propel Fuels a few weeks ago, because a couple of its stations were the location of the debut of the first commercially-available algae fuel for consumers. Teaming up with algae fuel maker Solazyme, Propel has been selling algae fuel in a limited run month-long test pilot for regular drivers that is meant to test consumers’ responses to the alternative fuel. Propel’s stations also sell E85 (85 percent ethanol, 20 percent gasoline), biodiesel, and regular ol’ gasoline, too.

Propel’s new investment comes from existing investors Nth Power, Craton Equity Partners, and @Ventures, as well as from new investor Gentry Venture Partner. Propel raised a $20 million round back in early 2010. A Propel Fuel spokesperson tells me that this latest round of funding, plus grants, will enable the company to grow the number of its stations to 75 in California by the end of 2013.

Propel had been trying to grow a bit faster than that, and back in the summer of 2010 it told us it planned to add 75 new stations in California by the end of 2011. The past couple of years haven’t been exactly easy for cleantech companies to raise funds and expand.

Beyond alternative fuels, Propel Fuels is trying to make an overall better gas station experience. That includes adding in things like ride sharing locations, carbon offsetting options, and recycling locations.