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A new market for ABQ’s Enerpulse high powered spark plugs

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enerpulseA small Albuquerque company may soon provide a huge jolt of energy to thousands of natural-gas-fired engines.

Enerpulse Inc., which sells pulsed-power ignition plugs for automobiles, has signed an exclusive marketing deal with Connecticut-based Freepoint Commodities to market a new version of its product for use in natural-gas engines.

The company claims its ignition plugs deliver a charge 20,000 times more powerful than a standard spark plug. That improves engine efficiency and cuts fuel consumption, leading to lower operating costs and less exhaust emissions, said CEO Joseph Gonnella.

“We’ve had the natural-gas market in our sights for some time, because use of natural-gas fuels is growing like gangbusters,” he said. “These fuels are much harder to ignite than gasoline or diesel, so our plugs can help operators start engines faster and easier.”

Freepoint will market Enerpulse plugs to companies throughout North America that use stationary, natural-gas engines. In addition, Freepoint will provide $1.75 million in debt equity to Enerpulse.

Until now, Enerpulse only had sold its “Pulstar” plugs for use in vehicles.

The Pulstar, which is about the size and shape of a normal spark plug, has a built-in capacitor that gathers and stores an electric charge from a vehicle’s battery.

When the operator hits the ignition, it immediately releases a massive pulse of power that greatly increases vehicle acceleration and pull. That means better performance using less gasoline.

Enerpulse founder and President Louis Camilli said such increased power is particularly beneficial for natural-gas engines, because they require about double the ignition-temperature levels as gasoline.

The company’s new redesigned plug has demonstrated a 1 percent to 1.5 percent gain in fuel economy for natural-gas engines, Camilli said.

Enerpulse estimates its current target market at about 10,000 natural-gas engines, or about 100 million ignition plugs per year.

The company sells the Pulstar through auto parts retailers, such as Advance Auto Parts Inc. and O’Reilly Automotive Inc. It makes about 200,000 plugs annually at a facility in Albuquerque.

With the Freepoint partnership, Gonnella expects output to grow to about 1 million plugs by late 2014.

The company currently employs 20 people and has raised about $20 million in venture capital since launching in 1996.

Enerpulse has presented three times at the Technology Venture Corp.’s annual equity capital event in Albuquerque. It also has made the Flying 40 fastest-growing tech companies in New Mexico.

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