Rita Hansen
www.onboarddynamics.com

 

Business Description: Onboard Dynamics, Inc. is developing and commercializing compressor technology based on volume-produced automotive engines so that refueling of vehicles with natural gas can economically take place anywhere with access to a natural gas pipeline 

Company Background: The core in-cylinder technology was initially funded through a Department of Energy (DOE) ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy) award of $1M granted to Dr. Chris Hagen of Oregon State University (OSU). Onboard Dynamics, Inc. was formed in October, 2013 and in 2014 received an ARPA-E contract for a $3.6M follow-on award for continued engineering and market development work to achieve a commercially viable product.

Management:

Rita Hansen, (CEO and co-founder): Serial entrepreneur with engineering background, with strength in engineering & operations management in energy & clean tech.
George Muntean, PhD, (VP Engineering): Formerly with Cummins and the Pacific Northwest Labs. Expertise in advanced internal combustion engines and energy conversion technologies.
Jeff Witwer, PhD, PE (VP and co-founder): Co-founder/VP/BOD of four successful high-tech start-ups; unique blend of energy industry knowledge, high tech entrepreneur, and investor.
Steve Westberg, MBA, CPA (CFO): Business executive specializing in finance & operations for diverse industries; Founders Pad Mentor and Bend Venture Conference Fund Manager.

Products/Services: The barrier to widespread adoption of CNG vehicles is the lack of refueling infrastructure (public and private CNG fueling stations). Onboard Dynamics’ unique technology reduces cost of CNG compression thereby making clean, low-cost, domestic natural gas a more viable vehicle fuel. The technology can be either built into the engine of a vehicle or can be incorporated into a mobile or permanent small-scale compressor station suitable for commercial use. With either product, the power for the compression process is provided from the natural gas supply itself, instead of electricity.

Technologies/Special Know-how: The technology is based on using low cost, volume-produced automotive engines as a means of compressing natural gas for use in vehicles. The technology can be implemented in two ways:

  • as an integrated compressor/power unit in a transportable or permanently installed CNG compressor system (off-board) for use by fleets of fewer than 20 vehicles or
  • integrated into the engine of a vehicle (onboard) to provide “self-refueling” of vehicles. 

The first commercial products will be based on common V8 engines in which one bank provides the power for compression and the second bank functions as the compressor. In the second-stage product, the onboard system, the second bank has dual-mode capability such that it can selectively function as either a compressor or as a normal power bank, thereby providing full engine power for the vehicle.

Although both products contain considerable proprietary technology, the dual mode engine best illustrates the richness of our IP base.  In such a dual-mode engine, the cylinder head of one bank is modified such that its cylinders can provide either power or compression. During the refueling process, these unique cylinders are dedicated to compressing natural gas with power supplied by the other engine cylinders running in normal combustion mode. The natural gas is pressurized in multiple stages in the various cylinders and subsequently stored in the high pressure storage tank located on the vehicle. When the vehicle is on the road, these dual purpose cylinders revert back to normal operation with all cylinders providing engine power. This technology is protected through current provisional and patent pending applications. New IP generated is being managed through the company’s IP strategy and management plan.

Market: Onboard Dynamics’ initial target market is public and private fleets that operate medium-duty trucks, such as refuse trucks, transit buses, and regional delivery vehicles. Within these types of fleets, the most attractive prospects will be those with less than 20 vehicles or those that are incrementally adding a few CNG vehicles to their fleet each year. The off-board system will be mounted on a trailer or small skid and will be sold, rented, or leased directly to fleet operators. Its core engine/compressor unit might also be offered on an OEM basis to current providers of conventional CNG compressor stations. The proprietary onboard, dual-mode engine technology will be available for licensing to manufacturers of truck engines.

The off-board, mobile system will also be useful for collection of renewable natural gas from remote landfills and agricultural wastes. These applications will be served through partnerships with firms that develop and manage such projects.

Distribution Channels: The initial off-board, mobile product will be made available to targeted fleets through a combination of direct sales, partnership relations with natural gas utilities (wanting to promote the use of natural gas vehicles), and OEM relations with existing providers of CNG compression systems. 

Competition: The principle competition for the off-board compressor system is a traditional CNG compressor system that is powered by electricity. For the market that we have targeted, smaller fleets and fleets incrementally adding CNG vehicles to their large fleets, our product is superior for several reasons:

  1. It does not require electricity for operation
    • Reduces installation cost by $50,000 to $100,000 per site since connection to high capacity electrical supply is not needed
    • Provides greater reliability since back up electrical power is not needed.
    • Reduces the cost of energy for compression by 50%
  2. Is easily transportable a new location as fleet owner needs change.
  3. Economically scales to small size. Traditional CNG compressor systems become very expensive at smaller sizes. This has been a large barrier to expanded use of natural gas vehicles
Client or Alumni: 
Alumni