Dawood unveils car powered by natural gas (VIDEO)

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HAMPDEN TWP. — As companies look for a way to save on fuel, Dawood Engineering is stepping into the future as one of the first small businesses in the state to drive a vehicle powered by compressed natural gas.

The company unveiled the truck Wednesday at its headquarters in Hampden Township, with delegates and representatives present to speak and hear about the latest development in environmentally friendly business practices in Pennsylvania.

Heather Sweitzer, the manager of marketing and business development for Dawood, said the company chose to go with the compressed natural gas option for a variety of reasons. However, she said a significant reason is because it is a big part of the business right now and has a lot of benefits for the company — and the area.

"About half of our business is energy-related, so natural gas just makes sense for us because we are in the industry," she said. "We want to show that we support it. With all of our guys in the field, it just makes sense price-wise, as well. It's cleaner, it's better for the environment, it's much cheaper than gasoline and it's local. We're a small business, and we're trying to be in front of it and let people know that we are behind the industry, behind the technology."

The president and CEO of Dawood, Bony Dawood, said the company is looking to replace its fleet with the CNG vehicles in the near future, as trucks come up for replacement. Dawood said he is a little concerned about the access to natural gas stations in the area — the closest stations are near Dawood's Sayre office. Because of that, the new truck will be used at that office the most.

"As an organization, we heard about natural gas energy a couple of years ago," he said. "We are considering, how does our fleet benefit, but also support the industry. We have about 40-45 surveying vehicles out in the field, so this is a start for us. We're looking at going forward in terms of how we can slowly start replacing the older vehicles and looking at alternatives. But one of the main concerns and challenges we have is access to fueling stations. We know the infrastructure is getting there, but it's going to take some time."

Dawood, founded in 1992, is a multi-disciplined consulting firm with a corporate office located in the Harrisburg region, with additional Pennsylvania regional offices near Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Sayre and Hershey; and an Ohio regional office in Canton.

Dan Lapato, the deputy director of Office of External Affairs at the state Department of Environmental Protection, spoke at Wednesday's event about the benefits of using natural gas.

"Companies like Dawood switching to natural gas vehicles, is helping to clean the air," he said. "We can celebrate a Pennsylvania company, beginning to use a Pennsylvania product to put more Pennsylvanians to work. And I think that's really a key issue here. ... (Companies switching to natural gas vehicles) realize several benefits. First and foremost is the cost savings to operate these vehicles. The second one, is the environmental benefits ... the air quality benefits. (There are) anywhere from 30 to 50 percent reduction in emissions, and that's a big deal in places like Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh. And as we convert over, keep in mind we're converting not just to cleaner fuel, but to a Pennsylvania fuel."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, CNG is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that consists mostly of methane and is drawn from gas wells or in conjunction with crude oil production. The gas generates fewer exhaust and greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles, the EPA said.

Dawood's vehicle, a Dodge Ram that has been modified with special valves capable of handling CNG, is estimated to get a combined range of nearly 370 miles from the natural gas and unleaded, regular gasoline.

Dawood said he thinks natural gas is an abundant resource that he hopes to see more people use in the future.

"We feel that it's the future. It's a step that has to be taken," he said. "We hope that other companies will look at it and ... want to support the industry. It's real positive, and there's going to be more opportunities down the road. We feel it's an asset that Pennsylvania has, and as long as we manage the resource properly, there are a lot of benefits and opportunities."

This article was first published by The Sentinel.

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