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Hudson: Converting vehicles to natural gas power

10:54 PM, Apr 30, 2012   |    comments
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HUDSON -- A Hudson company is converting cars and trucks to run on compressed natural gas, at about $2 per gallon.

CNG-One is seeing its business increase right along with the rising price of gasoline.

"We're finding that every day people call us," offers company CEO Michael Battaglia, who founded CNG-One in 2008 as gasoline prices first spiked at over $4 per gallon.

"Any time there's a two-cent rise in the gas price, the phone rings twice as much." 

Especially susceptible to the price of gasoline are businesses with small fleets of 5 to 10 vehicles, Battaglia told WKYC. One of those is the Frecka Plumbing Company of Cuyahoga Falls.

Company vice president Tim Frecka will be bringing his fleet of ten Chevy vans to CNG-One. He was quickly sold on the benefits of conversion to run on both gasoline and Compressed Natural Gas, or CNG.

"I said great, I'm ready to go. How soon can I get them in," Frecka remembers telling Battaglia after analyzing potential cost savings for his plumbing fleet.

He expects to recoup the cost of conversion, at about $6,000 per truck, in a few years.  Frecka is also looking into making his company offices into a natural gas station, by installing a special compressor which can use his existing natural gas line to fuel his fleet.

"We haven't been able to raise our company's rates because of the economy," Frecka related. "So any way we can save money on our end is great."

Even with the additional cost of about $20,000 to convert his headquarters into a compressed natural gas filling station, Frecka figures to come out ahead in the long run.

Since he'll be bypassing the mark-up and overhead of a commerical filling station, Frecka will be able to fill his tanks at the equivalent of $1.25 per gallon.  It's a price which analysts expect to remain stable in the foreseeable future.

Battaglia of CNG-One says commercial gas stations, which can sell compressed natural gas at around $2 per gallon, are catching on.

"Both Giant Eagle and Pilot are adding Compressed Natural Gas filling pumps to a number of their existing stations," he said. Battaglia plans to add a filling station to his own company headquarters, near the busy intersection of State Route 303 and Akron-Cleveland Road.

Converting a vehicle to run on both gasoline or diesel, and CNG is not for everyone. The company does an analysis for each potential customer. The fewer miles one drives, the less cost-effective the conversion.

The conversion takes about 2 days to complete and the vehicle has to be outfitted with a 5 to 10 gallon compressed natural gas tank, which weighs about 200 pounds.

Finding room on smaller cars can be a challenge.

Once a vehicle is converted, it can still run on gasoline. A small switch mounted on the dashboard allows the driver to select gasoline or natural gas. Once the compressed natural gas tank is empty, the vehicle automatically switches back to gasoline.

Battaglia expects the $6,000 price tag to go down in coming years, as equipment is standardized and technology improves.  He points to the plentiful supply of natural gas as a factor which will secure the future of CNG conversions.

"Right now there are wells capped in the state of Ohio only because there's just not enough demand for the natural gas to justify the extraction," he explained.


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