Such services are already available in North America and Europe, but may have special appeal in Russia given the country’s particularly harsh winters.
Toplivo v Bak, which translates as “Fuel to the Tank”, and another company called Pump will come and fill up a car’s fuel tank at the kerbside on receipt of an order via a smartphone app - even if the owner is not there.
The services are available in four cities - Moscow, St Petersburg, Sochi and Krasnodar. The companies are riding the trend for on-demand delivery of goods pioneered by U.S. companies such as Uber and Amazon via smartphone technology, which is taking off in Russian cities.
If a registered user of one of the services is running low on fuel, they tap an order into their smartphone which transmits the location of their vehicle.
The order is received electronically by a courier driving a small van with a fuel tank attached, containing petrol or diesel. When the courier arrives at the car, he pulls a fuel nozzle out of the van and inserts it into the petrol tank to fill up the car and then drives on to the next customer. If the customer leaves the petrol cap unlocked, the vehicle can be refueled without any need for them to be present. However, not all customers take up that option.
Most of Toplivo v Bak and Pump’s business comes from re-fuelling vehicles operated by car-sharing companies, while the rest of their customers are private car owners.
The services are not yet major players in Russia’s fuel market. Between them, they deliver between 16,000 and 18,000 liters of fuel per day, which is about the same amount a single fuel station would sell in a day.
But they have plans to grow, with the help of technology. The technology already exists for vehicles to send an automated message when they need refueling, and there are fuel caps that can be unlocked with a code the owner can share with the refueling company.
According to reuter