A Giant station in Red Lion displayed its gas price: $3.49 a gallon. That's not bad; actually, it's likely one of the cheaper prices in York County.
But across the Windsor Commons parking lot on Monday, a different kind of fueling station competed for attention, with a label reading a too-good-to-be-true $1.55 a gallon.
The station, called a Galileo Nanobox, is a self-contained fueling unit that dispenses natural gas to compatible cars. But it wasn't there to stay - State College-based company Fleet Energy America brought it to York County to demonstrate it to Shipley Group President Matt Sommer.
"We are planning to convert a number of our trucks (to natural gas)," Sommer said.
Plans aren't finalized, but Shipley plans to create a natural gas fueling facility in York that would service its trucks and vans and be open to the public by spring of 2014, he said.
'The ideal start': The Nanobox unit looks like a time machine, complete with two dispensers, several valves and a touch screen. It can refill 50 to 250 natural gas-compatible vehicles per day, said Fleet Energy President Perry Babb.
"It really can change Pennsylvania, change America," he said. "It's a godsend. It is really going to save the United States economy."
The particular model Babb brought to Red Lion costs between $300,000 and $400,000 to install and allows small companies and communities to start out with a "bite-sized unit" they can later replace with a bigger one, Babb said.
"For the vast majority of Pennsylvania situations, this is the ideal start," he said.
The cost to convert a vehicle to accept natural gas is about $9,000, he said, but many car dealers now offer compatible models straight from the factory, he said.
Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Twp., attended the demonstration and noted that there are natural gas fueling stations throughout the state. For example, State College's transportation authority has had natural gas-powered buses since 1993.
"This is a no-brainer, but people are tough to change," Saylor said. "It's about education and getting people to understand."
Cheap and clean: There are household fueling stations, as well, said Fleet Energy owner Ken Sagan. For less than $10,000, he and his wife installed one in their home. They get "gas" for 83 cents a gallon, he said.
Anyone can purchase a fueling unit, and any car can be converted, Sagan said. His 1996 Dodge Ram was converted and runs only on natural gas, he said.
"It's as nice as when I bought it," he said.
Natural gas is also safer than gasoline and propane, Sagan said, because if there's a leak in the vehicle, the gas will simply dissipate in the air. And another plus: no more oil changes, as there are no byproducts, he said.
"It's cheap, clean and it's abundant," Sagan said. "Let me say this: When Henry Ford built the automobile, there were no fueling stations."
-Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.