A year ago, Deer Valley resident Paul Hydok started a compressed natural gas company called Energy Wise. With years of experience in the energy business, Hydok said the new business was going to tap into an idea with a wealth of market potential, and it starts at the gas pump.
Energy Wise converts traditional vehicles to a bi-fuel system, meaning it could run on gasoline and compressed natural gas, the same energy source that heats more than 60 million homes in the United States. Cars would use the natural gas first, which rings up at roughly $1.50 per gallon, and once that fuel source is gone the car will automatically switch to regular gasoline, all with the push of a button.
But despite natural gases being used in vehicles as early as WWII, Hydok said the market is largely untapped, that of the 260 million vehicles in the U.S. today, only 250,000 used compressed natural gas.
"I saw natural gas vehicles as this incredible opportunity," Hydok said. "I knew I wanted to start something with national growth potential. This will not be a Salt Lake City-Park City company."
Hydok started the business with two other founding partners, Jensen Poore, who attended business school at the University of Utah, and John Leone, a mechanical engineer with degree in physics and electronics.
After months of special training, rounding up very specific equipment and endless research, Hydok said the company started converting its first vehicles.
The three partners developed a sophisticated supply and demand scenario, building infrastructure alongside the product, converting vehicles. That means the company is investing in building natural gas fueling stations in Utah, with hopes to even expand that into at-home stations that tap directly into the natural gas in a home. For now though, Hydok is working to make sure his growing list of customers have options on where to fill up.
Even he sees the benefits, he said. Most recently, he took his bi-fuel truck to St. George for a long weekend. Roundtrip from Park City to St. George, he spent $43 on fuel and still had gas left over by the time he was home.
"This is a good product," Hydok said, "just take a road trip and you'll see."
The system costs anywhere from $6,500 to $10,000 to install, a price Hydok said depending on mileage is typically paid back in gas price savings in one to two years. The reason the system costs what it does is primarily the tank, he added, which must be hooked up to the vehicle's electronic system. On average, installation takes one week in the Salt Lake City shops to convert, but Energy Wise is hoping to cut that time down to two or three days in the future.
Energy Wise hopes to target the everyday consumer, but also fleets of vehicles. And to make that affordable, the company has developed a capital backing program where Energy Wise can fund projects on a case-by-case basis upfront and the company would pay back those costs through a premium paid at the gas pump. The natural gas prices would still hover below the gasoline prices, allow for a greener image and extend the life of the vehicles.
"The reaction we're looking for, the reaction we often get is 'Really, you can do something where I can buy gas for 1.50?' And we can. 'And it's better for the environment?' It is. 'And my car will run better?' This system does all three of those things."
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3744 S 150 E South Salt Lake, UT 84114