Onboard Dynamics looks to have natural-gas system on the market by 2017
Less than two years after receiving money from the U.S. Department of Energy that jump-started the company, Bend-based Onboard Dynamics Inc. has secured another round of funding that will bring the company’s natural gas compression technology closer to commercial availability.
The company announced Tuesday that it secured $3 million in public and private funding. Of that total, $2.4 million will be coming from Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, an agency within the U.S. Department of Energy designed to advance technologies that aren’t ready for the market. The remaining money came from the Portland Seed Fund, utility and manufacturing companies and undisclosed private investors.
“This 3 million is to get us to the commercialization phase,” said Rita Hansen, co-founder of Onboard Dynamics.
This isn’t the first time Onboard Dynamics, which develops technology that compresses natural gas for use in vehicles, has received government funding. In 2014, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy provided $2.88 million of a total $3.6 million in investment, which allowed Onboard Dynamics to develop from a spin-off of research occurring at Oregon State University-Cascades into a growing early-stage company.
Hansen said the initial funding came with quarterly performance benchmarks for 18 months on how to get the project up and running, which were mostly aimed at perfecting the technology. This funding will also come with benchmarks for the next 18 months, but Hansen said they will be evenly split between improving the engines that would allow cars to run on compressed natural gas and bringing them to the market.
As a result, Onboard Dynamics looked to partner with companies in the various industries it works with, including U.S. Metal Works, a fabrication and design company with a manufacturing facility in Sandy, as well as NW Natural, a natural-gas company based in Portland. Melissa Moore, corporate communications manager for NW Natural, said the company contributed $50,000 in in-kind funding to the most recent round to help test the delivery system for the compressed natural gas.
The company’s initial product was developed as a multiple-cylinder car engine that could compress natural gas and use the gas to power the engine simultaneously. However, Hansen said Onboard Dynamics’ secondary project, a stand-alone, mobile, self-powered compressor system, is closer to commercialization.
“Essentially, this allows you to refill two to five vehicles at the same time,” Hansen said.
Hansen said the product, which would be used with vehicles that have already been configured to run on compressed natural gas, could be available as soon as late 2017. She added that the integrated vehicle engines will not be available commercially until after 2017, though she did not have an estimated date.
In addition to the recent funding round, Onboard Dynamics moved into a new 2,000-square-foot headquarters on Layton Avenue in northeast Bend. The company, which currently has four employees on its payroll, is looking to expand to at least 10 over the next 18 months, and will be bringing on interns to continue development.
“I consider us very lucky to be in Bend doing something potentially transformative,” Hansen said.