EDMOND — Craig Wright is an unabashed tinkerer.
He's also convinced of natural gas' potential as a replacement for gasoline, so he is always looking for a new application.
His limited-edition 2012 Ford F-150 Raptor, with distinctive red lettering on the grill, has been converted to run on compressed natural gas. It also has added a CNG-fueled Roush supercharger, creating what he calls a Roush Raptor.
“I call it the fire-breathing dragon,” he said.
Wright, who owns CNG Interstate in Edmond, also did some networking to get his hands on a 23-foot Malibu Wakesetter from Wilson Watersports.
He said the ski boat's Chevrolet engine is not that much different from an automotive motor, so he knew it was possible to convert it to CNG. But it took some work to get the timing right.
Wright's team also researched marine regulations to make sure its work met all the necessary requirements.
Wright said it took a few weeks to complete the conversion after the boat was delivered in December, but it has been too cold to put it on the water.
He said Malibu is sending some of its technical staff to Oklahoma soon to see how the converted boat performs.
“We already know that it's going to work really well,” Wright said.
Wright, whose business specializes in CNG conversions, said natural gas, which costs about $1 a gallon, is a good alternative for boaters because it is much cheaper than the high-grade gasoline they have to use. Ski boats consume a “massive” amount of fuel, he said.
The converted Wakesetter has two tanks that can hold up to 25 gallons of CNG, enough for a light day on the lake, he said. It still has its 59-gallon gasoline tank as well.
Wright said his team was able to keep costs down on the boat conversion by working with a kit maker to engineer the needed parts.
“Obviously it demonstrates our capability of pushing the bounds of performance,” he said.
In the future, he said Malibu could tweak its manufacturing process to accommodate CNG conversions.
Wright said he expects there to be a lot of interest in CNG among boaters. He said he had gotten requests to convert boats over the past five years or so, “but nobody wanted to be the guinea pig.”
Wright said newer boats such as the Wakesetter are more like cars because they meet standards meant to reduce air pollution.
“This could be a big advantage,” he said. “Natural gas is cleaner.”
Wright said natural gas also is a viable option for recreational vehicles, another industry hampered by poor gas mileage and high fuel costs.
“Natural gas could potentially save their industries,” he said.
Wright said CNG Interstate, which has doubled the size of its workshop since it opened its Oklahoma operations in 2011, is focusing on product development, while earning certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board.
He said he wants his company to develop better ways to install the equipment needed to convert vehicles to CNG, with an eye toward eventually supplying those solutions to other companies.
Expects to expand
Wright said he expects CNG Interstate to expand from its current 7,500-square-foot space, with plans to open a separate emissions lab in the future to prepare for new federal air quality regulations.