Perry Babb of State College demonstrates how the to pump natural gas with the Fleet Energy fueling station at Windsor Common Shopping Center.
Perry Babb of State College demonstrates how the to pump natural gas with the Fleet Energy fueling station at Windsor Common Shopping Center. (Steven Goeller photo)

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 mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.