By Ted Shorack

The Bulletin

The first Deschutes County vehicle to partially run on compressed natural gas has been a success and could lead the road department to test similar technology in the future.

In September, a road department inspector began using a Ford F-250 that partially runs on natural gas as part of a pilot program with Bend-based OnBoard Dynamics. The technology company partnered with the county last year to see how well the system could perform.

“We’ve been working really closely with them,” said Randy McCulley, the road department fleet manager. “It’s been running really well and we haven’t had maintenance issues.”

McCulley said on average the department inspector drives more than 100 miles a day and he uses natural gas for about 70 miles before switching to gasoline.

“Our part of the project was really to provide the customer experience of onboard compression,” McCulley said.

Rita Hansen, the CEO of OnBoard Dynamics, said the company is enthusiastic about the project’s success and potential future collaboration with Deschutes County.

“We’re hoping to continue the partnership with Deschutes County and have them test our real first product to market,” said Hansen.

The county truck is refueled overnight with a natural gas line at the road department facility. The compressor, which is attached to the truck, takes several hours to resupply enough usable gas for the next day.

The company plans to partner with the county again as it tests out a mobile compression system. The compressor the company has developed will be installed in a self-contained trailer that can be hauled to different locations. The newer system can compress gas much faster.

OnBoard Dynamics plans to eventually market its compressor technology in an integrated engine that uses cylinders to increase the pressure of the natural gas to fuel a vehicle.

“We’re looking forward to testing their real product when they come out with that,” said McCulley.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, tshorack@bendbulletin.com

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