Danville may soon become a testing ground for Fermata’s vehicle-to-grid power storage technology by swapping city vehicles out four Nissan Leaf electric cars.
On Tuesday, Danville City Council will hear the University of Virginia research project company’s proposal in a work session. The company, founded by U.Va. engineering professor David Slutzky, received a $2 million Tobacco Commission grant in May 2014 and thus must operate within the tobacco region’s footprint.
“ Danville is perfect for us with or without the Tobacco Commission grant. Danville has a municipal utility,” company president and CEO Slutzky said, adding that working with more accessible individuals like Utilities Director Jason Grey is better than working with Dominion, Appalachian Power or another big electric company.
At various points in the city, Fermata will set up vehicle-to-grid — or v2g — bidirectional chargers, utilizing its innovative technology that stores power. This power storage method will be increasingly needed as alternative power sources like wind or solar energy and electric cars become more common.
“ Energy storage is an important part of the future of the grid,” he said. “These are basically big electric vehicle chargers that have a lot of power in them — more than usual — and they make it possible for our electric vehicles to interact with the grid.”
Danville will rent the electric vehicles for city employees to use for work purposes. The company will be paid for the grid storage and that revenue will be paid to the city to offset its vehicle rental price. The offset figure will be equivalent to standard, combustion vehicle rental prices. This pilot project is the first commercial use of v2g, Slutzky said.
Fermata has been working with the utility department and power grid to obtain data. From that information, the company will select four sites and purchase chargers from a manufacturer. Depending on the success of the Danville field test, Fermata will begin manufacturing its own chargers and/or charger cords in Danville.
“ We hope to establish in Danville that it works and then start commercializing the technology,” he said.
Danville is an ideal location for its willing workers and Danville Community College, Slutzky said. The community college has both an automotive and electrical technologies focus, which fit into the skills required for Fermata.
The testing is right on schedule for Fermata’s originally projected scheme previously reported in 2014. Research was planned for the first three years with minimal staffing and technician hiring at various points. Then production was expected to begin in mid-2017 with a 127 factory workers, a previous article reported.