Featured Project

Natural Gas Vehicles / Mobile CNG Stations

A dual-function natural gas vehicle (NGV) engine that compresses low-pressure gas for self-refueling

A natural gas refueling innovation, jointly developed by Czero, Onboard Dynamics, and researchers from the Energy Systems Laboratory at Oregon State University-Cascades, was designed to reduce the cost of at-home refueling and enable widespread adoption of natural gas vehicles.

The innovation is an NGV engine that uses one or more of its own cylinders to compress gas from low-pressure natural gas service lines for self-refueling. Czero worked hand-in-hand with Onboard Dynamics and Oregon State to develop multiple generations of the product.

Expanding on the technology concept of liberating NGVs from today’s limited network of natural gas refueling stations, Onboard Dynamics has also developed a mobile natural gas compressor. The compact, off-grid CNG system is powered by the natural gas it compresses, rather than requiring electricity.

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE) the largest natural gas distribution utility in the U.S., contracted to fund a demonstration project. For the project, two California school districts used mobile compressors to refuel CNG buses in their fleets.

"In a short time frame, we have made tremendous progress in making natural gas both a cost-effective and convenient refueling option, thanks to our incredible team and the support we have received at the state and national level."
- Rita Hansen, CEO of Onboard Dynamics

ARPA-E Project Overview: OnBoard Dynamics: Vehicle-Integrated Natural Gas Compressor




The right technology at the right time

Using smart technology to overcome barriers to NGV adoption.

As of 2016, there were fewer than 2,000 public NGV refueling stations across the U.S. So developing a commercially viable alternative to building a vast, expensive network of natural gas fueling stations would be a game-changer for the automotive industry.

For consumers, since natural gas typically costs about less per gallon equivalent than gasoline, using natural gas as automobile fuel could cut fuel costs significantly. Plus, it’s hard to beat the convenience of fueling your car at your home or business.

Project funding

$4 million in early-stage R&D funding from the U.S. Department of Energy
Following the first year of R&D, and due in part to Czero’s contributions, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded additional funding for the project, adding $300,000 to the $700,000 ARPA-E grant that launched the project in 2012.

In 2014, based on the success of initial R&D and the potential impact of the new technology, ARPA-E awarded $3 million to Onboard Dynamics to commercialize the innovation. As an R&D partner, Czero continued providing critical engineering services through this stage of the project, serving as an extension of the Onboard Dynamics team.

$3 million for next-stage development
- In 2016, Onboard Dynamics secured an additional $3 million from ARPA-E, Portland Seed Fund, NW Natural and other utilities, and private investors.

SoCalGas funds field testing of mobile CNG refueling units
- In early 2017, looking to support the growth of natural gas utilization as an alternative fuel for vehicles, SoCalGas signed on to fund field demonstration and testing of the mobile refueling units in Mountain View School District in El Monte, California and the Antelope Valley Schools Transportation Agency in Lancaster, California.

“This mobile technology provides a cost-effective and convenient refueling solution for smaller CNG operators,” said Lisa Alexander, vice president of customer solutions and communications for SoCalGas.

Czero’s role in the earliest stages of R&D

Onboard Dynamics grew from NGV research that began at Oregon State University-Cascades. Chris Hagen, an assistant professor in OSU’s Energy Systems Engineering program, enlisted Czero to fill a critical gap in staffing and subject area expertise for the DOE-funded project.


Showcased by ARPA-E at the Clean Energy Ministerial

In 2016, ARPA-E featured Onboard Dynamics in its Startups & Solutions Showcase exhibit at the seventh Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM7) in San Francisco. A global conference of energy ministers, delegates, business leaders, and researchers from around the world, CEM7 fosters global collaboration in advancing clean energy solutions.

Onboard Dynamics was among 100 innovators recognized for developing new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the transition to clean energy.

BP Energy Partners

In Fall 2021, BP Energy Partners made a significant investment of $30M in Onboard Dynamics. Onboard has gone to introduce the GoVac Flex, a compact, portable tool for minimizing methane releases during pipeline blowdowns at job sites. It is powered by a small portion of the gas being recovered, so no external power is required.

"Czero was able to engage last minute to displace a well-known automotive engineering company at a fraction of the price. Over a year into the project, Czero has continued to be responsive and trustworthy; their engineering performance has contributed significantly to an increase in project funding from the sponsor. As the project principal investigator, selecting Czero as an engineering services company has been one of the best decisions I have made."
- Chris Hagen, Energy Systems Engineering Oregon State University-Cascades

About ARPA-E

A program of the US Department of Energy, created by an act of Congress in 2007 and launched in 2009, ARPA-E supports R&D for advancing scientific discoveries and technologies that have potential high impacts on US national security, economic prosperity and environmental protection. This highly competitive program provides funding, technical assistance, and support transitioning viable new technologies from the R&D stage to market readiness in the commercial sector.

Enabling low-cost utilization of natural gas for vehicle fueling

In the video below, ARPA-E provides context for the OSU natural gas vehicle home-fueling project and other exciting R&D supporting wide-spread adoption of natural gas vehicles.

Long-term relationships

Czero prioritizes cultivating enduring relationships with its customers like Onboard Dynamics through seamless communication channels, ensuring every interaction is transparent and informative. We go the extra mile by providing meticulous documentation, empowering clients to understand and customize their solutions. Additionally, Czero fosters a collaborative environment that enables everyone to elevate their own capabilities. This is evidenced through Czero's more than decade long relationship of doing projects with Onboard Dynamics.

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