Bend startup Onboard Dynamics has signed a contract with SoCalGas, which will fund the demonstration and testing of a new mobile natural gas compressor that can re-fuel compressed natural gas vehicles on the go, according to a recent news release. SoCalGas plans to use the Onboard Dynamics compressors to refuel CNG buses in two California school districts, beginning this summer.

The mobile compressor will allow the CNG buses to refuel without having to drive to a retail refueling station or pay the large upfront cost of building a conventional CNG refueling station onsite, Onboard Dynamics reports.

Rita Hansen, CEO of Onboard Dynamics.

From the release:

“We are excited to introduce a mobile compressor that effectively provides CNG refueling options without the need for electric power,” says Rita Hansen, chief executive officer, ObDI. “Our technology can potentially reduce CNG production costs, increase efficiency, improve reliability and lower criteria emissions compared to previous engine-driven products.”

Lisa Alexander, vice president of customer solutions and communications for SoCalGas says the mobile technology offers a convenient, cost-effective solutions for smaller CNG operators.

“This, in turn, may lead to an accelerated adoption of CNG, which would contribute to improved air quality and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to petroleum-based fuels,” she says.

CNG is projected to emit less nitrogen oxide (NOx) and other greenhouse gas emissions and can be more affordable than gasoline or diesel, according to the news release. Since there are fewer than 2,000 CNG refueling stations in the U.S., technology such as this mobile CNG compressor could help to fuel smaller CNG fleets like school buses in a more cost-effective manner, the release says.

Designed to be compact, affordable, simple to install and easily transportable, the mobile compressor will be powered by natural gas, unlike other technologies that require an external electric power source for operation. Thus, it can also act as a capacity boost for existing CNG compressor stations or as a reliable backup source during emergency events in which electrical generators are offline.

The Onboard Dynamics team hopes that larger fleet operators will see the mobile compressor as a way to transition their fleets to CNG fuel. Founded in 2013, the Bend startup was also invited last week to the California Energy Commission/ARPA-E Interagency Annual Commercialization meeting to share its story and talk about opportunities for its technology.

Funding and support for the development of the compressor was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, ONAMI, Oregon BEST, Portland Seed Fund, NW Natural and other utilities and private investors.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley