July 29, 2008, Updated September 12, 2012

Interest was running high at the launch of the new Energtek three-wheeler in the Philippines.

A snazzy green Yamaha RS100T motorcycle with a sidecar will be the greenest taxi in the Philippines in the near future. The vehicle will be fitted with three compact cylinders of natural gas, using technology developed by Israeli-American company, Energtek.

Energtek’s recent announcement of the first successful conversion of a three-wheeled vehicle to natural gas for commercial purposes created a buzz in motorcycle media, green publications and blogs worldwide.

“Natural Gas is the most practical motor fuel alternative to gasoline,” Lev Zaidenberg, Energtek’s CEO, tells ISRAEL21c. “Extraordinary quantities exist. And, it is cheaper and cleaner than gasoline.”

With oil prices skyrocketing, and increased concern about pollution, Energtek’s proprietary ANG technology is a breakthrough for countries where two and three-wheeled vehicles predominate. During the past year, Energtek has successfully entered three Asian markets – the Philippines, India, and Indonesia.

There are about 300 million two and three wheeled vehicles on the road worldwide – some 25 percent of the world’s automotive market; and nearly 85 percent of them are in Asia. Small 2-stroke engines which get a quick surge of power because combustion is completed in only two stokes of the piston, rather than four as in a car, are popular.

Ban on polluting vehicles

Tricycles or vespas are relatively low-cost to buy, but – and this is a big drawback — they emit high levels of smoky pollution when powered by gasoline. In a drastic measure to try to control pollution, the Philippine government is about to put a ban on the use of highly polluting two-stroke vehicles, powered with gasoline.

“Energtek’s technology provides a solution for two million tricycle drivers to continue to operate their vehicles, preventing them from suffering a significant loss of livelihood…” says Ariel P. Lim, the Philippine President’s Special Advisor for Public Transport Affairs.

Last Wednesday, Energtek signed an agreement with the Philippine National Oil Company to convert half a million three-wheeled vehicles to natural gas within three to four years.

Energtek will buy the gas from stranded wells in the province of Isabela, and use its technology in a multi-phase conversion project, dubbed “the world’s first commercial ANG project.” It hopes to convert 50,000 tricycles within 18 months. This initiative is expected to generated revenues of $20 million in vehicles equipment sales and $40 million in annual gas sales.

Inventive contributions

“Our R&D division (Angstore) spent more than six years on research and development,” says Zaidenberg, a maverick entrepreneur who also founded Mutek, as well as Angstore, and has received awards for his inventive contributions to the Israel Air Force and the Israel Computer Society.

He’s not the only well known name at the company. Prof. Yuri Ginzburg, the company’s CTO, is a world expert in the automotive industry, and a specialist in alternative fuel systems. Eliezer Sandberg, chairman of the board, is a former Israel Minister of National Infrastructure.

Investors in the company include a major Swiss bank, a UK Fund, and an Austrian investment company that specializes in the energy field.

Energtek is the first company to produce a cost-effective Adsorbed Natural Gas (ANG) system. ANG technology is a storage system that adds solid nano-porous activated carbon material (like the kind used as filters in fish tanks) to adsorb (not absorb) natural gas (NG).

Molecules of methane stick close together on the material becoming a dense film. These molecules are then compressed into less space while using a third less pressure than typical Compressed NG systems. With more gas power capacity in each tank, driving ranges are increased. Three cylinders (which look like scuba diving tanks), with eight liters each, contain enough fuel for 100-120 kilometers of driving.

In the past, alternative storage systems have proved more expensive than the vehicles, and Energtek’s unique ANG technology application is the first that has passed road tests in the Philippines and India.

“Natural Gas is abundant but often ‘stranded,’ not easily accessible,” explains Zaidenberg. “Our innovative technology is not dependent on pipelines. Unlike oil, natural gas does not have to be refined.

The plan in the Philippines pilot project is to compress the Natural Gas on the stranded gas site into small cylinders that will then be shipped to distribution outlets throughout the country.

“The cost of natural gas using our ANG technology and Fast Interchangeable Tanks (FIT) is about half the cost of gasoline,” says Zaidenberg.

Retrofitting vehicles to use natural gas only takes a few hours. “The owner gets back his investment ($250 to $350) in a few months because of huge savings in fuel,” says Zaidenberg. The banks will also offer micro-financing schemes.

An even larger marker is India with 80 million motorcycles and two and three-wheelers. Earlier this year, Energtek signed a joint venture with Confidence Petroleum in India, setting up a subsidiary with exclusive rights to commercialize Energtek’s NG technology across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

The $25 million investment/financing deal includes transport of mobile pipes for industrial use of NG, and providing NG for automotive fleets, as well as scooters and motorcycles.

Energtek has also recently announced a similar $25 million joint venture with DML PTE, a prominent Indonesian manufacturer of transportation and energy management systems. In Indonesia, the government is set to cut gasoline subsidies by 35 percent. Low-income owners of 35 million two and three-wheeled vehicles will be hit hard.

The Joint Venture with DML PTE will commercialize Energtek’s technology in Singapore, and Malaysia as well as Indonesia. Revenues are expected to surpass $100 million.

Asked about Energtek’s next marketing target, Zaidenberg says: “Our next move will probably be to the US and South America. We are looking for countries that are oil importers, and have natural gas. Look, the price of gasoline is over $4.00 a gallon. The big gap is in our favor.”

What about cars and trucks? “We are developing a storage system for four-wheeled vehicles,” Zaidenberg confirms. “The marine market is also a huge target.”

“We have the right technology at the right time,” adds Zaidenberg. “Just think a short time ago we were just five guys with technology, no business. Now we have a business that is worldwide. Even Iran, the third largest oil producer is converting to gas.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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