Biodiesel Powers RAC's Opening in Calif.

LOS ANGELES --- A Maui-based rental car company has brought its operation to the mainland, offering rental customers…alternatives.

Bio-Beetle Inc., which rents biodiesel-powered autos, has opened a four-car branch near the Los Angeles International Airport. The company debuted in Hawaii in January 2003, and the reason for expansion to Los Angeles was simple for founder and president Shaun Stenschol.

In a not-so-pedestrian friendly city with an environmentally friendly collective conscience, Stenschol says that his alternative-fuel powered rental company and Los Angeles are a perfect fit.

“It’s a huge market. It’s a car city,” he adds.

Further, he wants to increase awareness of the biodiesel alternative.

“I have a strong passion for living in a sustainable society,” Stenschol says. “We are trying to expose more people to biodiesel fuels. We want to give people any easier way to do ‘green’ things.”

Joe Blackburn, manager of the Los Angeles location, adds that in the coming years, vehicles will be creeping more and more toward fuel substitutes.

“It’s totally positive and logical to help the environment,” Blackburn insists. “This is the way to power our transportation future.”

The power of the future, in this case anyway, is derived from vegetable oil, which can then be blended with traditional petroleum.

The mixture can occur in any proportion, but Bio-Beetle uses B100 biodiesel, which is 100% vegetable-oil derivative. Other variations include biodiesel fuels such as B20, a cheaper blend, but composed of just 20% feedstock derivative and 80% petrol.

A gallon of Bio-Beetle fuel costs about $3.50, but the vehicles can get anywhere from 30-45 mpg.

The only filling option, for now, is a cooperative business located in Culver City. Stenschol is a member of the co-op for fueling purposes, but hopes to install pumps on-site as business grows. He is currently setting up pumps at his Maui location that will service his 12 vehicles there.

The four cars parked at the Los Angeles branch are all from the Volkswagen brand – two Jettas, a Passat and the trademark Beetle. With standard diesel engines, the cars do not require modification to use biodiesel.

The price of operating biodiesel has driven the rental rates up, beginning at $199/week or $49.99/day. Those rates are higher than the typical RAC, Blackburn admits, referring to the fuel they use as “dino-diesel.”

But, he says, the motivation to rent from Bio-Beetle shouldn’t come from the pocketbook.

“You have to be motivated from your heart.”

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