Great news for Bend-based Onboard Dynamics: The startup just received $3 million in funding. The news was announced today at the Oregon BEST FEST, a two-day, clean tech conference in Portland.
The sizable grant comes courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Oregon BEST and ONAMI helped Onboard Dynamics secure the funds by providing the company with $400,000 in commercialization funding.
So what’s Onboard Dynamics going to do with all that money? Well the company has been working to speed the commercialization of an on-vehicle natural gas compression technology that enables the fueling of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles from any low-pressure, natural gas line.
The startup’s first target market is companies with commercial CNG fleets.
From the news release:
The technology, being developed by Oregon State University researchers and Onboard Dynamics, uses an existing engine piston and cylinder as the onboard compressor and could reduce fuel costs to as little as $1/gallon gasoline equivalent. This is a significant savings over the $2.30-plus/gallon gasoline equivalent price of natural gas purchased at public CNG filling stations. Only 800+ public CNG stations currently operate in the U.S. The technology could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to studies by the U.S. Dept. of Energy.
The startup was spun out of research developed at Oregon State University’s Cascades Campus in Bend. That is where Chris Hagen, an OSU assistant professor in the Energy Systems Engineering Program, and his students developed a working prototype of the in-engine compression technology. ARPA-E invested $1 million in Hagen’s early research in 2012. The agency has just committed an additional $3 million to help Hagen and his team continue advancing the technology.
“ARPA-E would not be funding this project at this level if they didn’t believe this technology could have a significant impact on our nation’s energy future,” said Rita Hansen, CEO of Onboard Dynamics. “ARPA-E, Oregon BEST, ONAMI and Oregon State University have all really stepped up and delivered, and their support has been critical.”
Oregon BEST will invest $150,000 and ONAMI will invest up to $250,000, with the funding tranched in concert with ARPA-E milestones, according to the release. This marks the first time ONAMI and Oregon BEST have simultaneously funded a project at this level. In addition, Oregon State University will waive its indirect costs related to these two grants (a value of approximately $91,000).
Onboard Dynamics will use the money to fund additional product engineering and testing. The company is working with the Deschutes County Road Dept. in Bend to help implement and test the technology.
“This is a terrific example of three different Oregon entities coming together to leverage significant federal funding to help an Oregon startup speed a new clean technology to market,” said Ken Vaughn, Director of Commercialization at Oregon BEST. “It’s been wonderful collaborating with ONAMI and OSU to arrive at such a positive outcome, and one that could mean more jobs for Oregonians.”
Congratulations to Onboard Dynamics. Can’t wait to see what happens next.
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].