By Ted Shorack

The Bulletin

A truck that will partially run on compressed natural gas was received by Deschutes County officials Thursday and will soon be on the road for a pilot program with Onboard Dynamics, a Bend-based technology company.

The Ford F-250 is outfitted with a natural gas refueling system that allows the driver to travel about 75 miles farther than with just a tank of gas.

Chris Doty, the county’s Road Department director, said Thursday the technology has great potential for saving the county money and improving the environment.

The Onboard compressor was developed by Chris Hagen, an assistant professor of engineering at OSU-Cascades and Onboard Dynamics’ chief technical officer.

Compressed natural gas refueling stations are located in the Willamette Valley along the Interstate 5 corridor but not in Central Oregon. The Onboard system eliminates the need for a compressor refueling station, which can be costly to build.

Installment of the compressor was paid for by the company, which sees the pilot program as way to test the product before presenting it to the marketplace.

A county utility inspector will use the truck and is expected to drive about 200 miles every day. Once the natural gas runs out, the engine will switch over to using the gasoline tank.

The Road Department has a natural gas line at its facility, and the truck will be able to refill and compress overnight for the next day.

Tony DeBone, chairman of the Deschutes County Commission, said Thursday he was excited to see the technology in use after learning about it a few years ago and seeing whether the county could play a role in testing it out.

“Natural gas for transportation just seems like such an opportunity,” DeBone said. “We’ve got a pipeline running right through Central Oregon. It’s a very exciting time to see this on the road.”

“It’s really going to allow us to really understand the customer-user experience and using compressed natural gas as a transportation fuel,” said Rita Hansen, CEO of Onboard Dynamics. “It’s about fuel-cost savings, but also about bettering the environment.”

Hansen noted it is a cleaner burning fuel and in abundance domestically.

“This is just a great opportunity for us to partner together and figure out where this is going to go into the future,” Hansen said.

Onboard Dynamics has already developed the next generation in the technology, which uses the engine cylinders to compress natural gas at an accelerated pace.

The tank installed on the county truck takes about eight hours to refuel, while the new version will only take about 30 minutes.

The company will get feedback from the county about how the vehicle operates in the field. It will also track cost savings in an effort to market the product to large truck fleets in the future.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,

tshorack@bendbulletin.com

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