PORTLAND, Maine — Drive from one end of the state to the other and you’ll find a wide range of gas prices. For that matter, you can often find big differences from one neighborhood to the next.
But a new mobile app from South Portland-based Wright Express Corp. is aimed at helping motorists pinch pennies by identifying the cheapest gas in the area — wherever you may be, across the United States.
The “Octane” app was launched Thursday, and is available for free in both the iTunes store and Android Marketplace. While other gas-price apps rely on users updating prices, Octane taps into Wright Express’s vast computer data sets, using up-to-date transaction-based fuel prices.
“We understand fleets need drivers to arrive at fuel sites safely and as quickly as possible, and they are also looking for ways to save money by better managing fuel costs and consumption,” said David D. Maxsimic, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Wright Express. “Our new mobile app, Octane, is the first of its kind and designed to meet these needs, underscoring our commitment to providing customers with the best possible fleet management tools.”
The app uses text-to-speech technology for hands-free operation so the user can focus on driving while listening to audio directions to their selected gas station.
It’s aimed primarily at Wright Express’s fleet services customers – and so only lists gas stations that accept its electronic transaction card. Still, that includes more than 160,000 locations nationwide and would be more than sufficient for most consumers, said Mark Hurley, senior product manager of emerging technologies for the company.
But, it wouldn’t include some consumer-focused gas locations, such as BJ’s or a Sam’s Club, he noted.
The app also offers the ability to locate sites with alternative fuels, such as diesel, 85 percent ethanol fuel (E85) and compressed natural gas (CNG), and to save search criteria, making it easy to quickly perform frequent searches. In times of emergency such as adverse weather or power outages, Octane users are able to find the nearest site where fuel is still available.
“As fuel prices are inherently volatile, and people are projecting prices over $5, this is the No. 1 cost that fleets of all sizes are trying to control,” Hurley said. “[Octane] instantly gives you a five mile radius of unleaded fuel — you get an instant result.”
Wright has more than 350,000 customers, with more than 850 employees in six countries. Hurley said that Octane would be the basis for future application enhancements. The company is now looking at extending Octane’s geographic reach into other areas where Wright’s fleet customers operate.