Alternative-energy drivers in Akron are about to have another option for a place to fuel — or charge — up.

Akron Metro is opening its first public compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling and electric car charging station Wednesday following its grand opening ceremony at 310 Kenmore Blvd.

The $2.25 million station began construction in January. It will have two CNG fuel pumps along with two plugs to charge electric cars.

Metro has used CNG fuel in some of its buses since 1996 and has since expanded use to 38 percent of its fleet, now powering 91 of the 237 buses.

Claire Merrick, the Metro communications specialist, said CNG buses are fueled at night, so Metro decided to put the equipment to use during the day when it would otherwise be idle.

“We’re kind of testing the waters,” Merrick said. “Metro wants to do all we can to reduce our carbon footprint.”

To charge electric cars, drivers will need to register on chargepoint.com and receive a physical card to use at the station or download a mobile app. Charging the car is free.

The CNG side is completely self-serve, accepting all major credit cards.

Ken Nicholson, the Midwest regional vice president of Clean Energy, said the opening price of CNG at the pump will be $1.89 per gallon.

Clean Energy Fuels, a company that specializes in natural gas, is in charge of running the pump.

Nicholson said the company taps into the city of Akron’s utility lines for the gas and electricity, and then Clean Energy provides the equipment needed to compress the gas.

CNG is basically methane, the same type of gas used for cooking, stored at a high pressure. It dispenses as a gas that is lighter than air.

As an alternative to gasoline, it is “cleaner, cheaper and domestic,” Nicholson said.

“The biggest advantage is the environmental impact,” Merrick said.

CNG produces fewer undesirable gases than burning gasoline, resulting in “very, very little pollution,” Nicholson said.

“It is extremely clean, better than EPA standards,” he added.

Natural gas is also more abundant in the U.S., making it a predominantly domestic product.

And because it isn’t imported like normal gasoline, the price per gallon is typically lower and more consistent than that of gasoline.

“We have many locations throughout Ohio that are great partners,” Nicholson said. “There’s great leadership throughout Ohio.”

There is currently one other CNG-fueling station in Akron, along with two in Cleveland and two in Canton.

The U.S. currently has the largest fleet of light-duty plug-in electric vehicles in the world, selling nearly 474,000 since 2008, according to hybridcars.com.

As far as CNG-fueled vehicles, though, the country is falling behind other areas of the world, with just 153,000 vehicles on the road.

Many of those are used in commercial applications like public transportation.

It can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $14,000 to convert an engine to CNG-fueled, according to vectren.com.

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or tcottom@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.