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City of Danville may get four Nissan Leafs at no cost
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City of Danville may get four Nissan Leafs at no cost

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Four electric cars used by Danville under an energy project have now become a permanent part of the city’s fleet.

Fermata Energy hopes to donate the four electric vehicles — 2015 or 2016 Nissan Leafs — and chargers to Danville as part of a requirement under a two-year research-and-development grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

The two-year tobacco commission grant is coming to an end in May, and the city could end up getting the cars at no cost, Danville Utilities Director Jason Grey said Thursday.

“They [Fermata] can’t sell the assets,” Grey said. “They must donate them within the tobacco commission footprint.”

The fair market price range for a 2015 Nissan Leaf is from about $10,000 to about $12,700, according to Kelley Blue Book online.

Danville partnered with Fermata in 2016 and integrated the electric cars at the Municipal Building, James F. Ingram Justice Center and at the city’s Northside Wastewater plant.

The cars have been used for work-related travel between businesses — such as to a customer on a job site — and field work, Grey said. They can go about 100 miles per charge, he said.

“They’re good for in-city driving,” Grey said.

The vehicles are low maintenance and reduce dependence on oil, Grey said. They’ve saved the city on fuel costs and on replacing vehicles, Grey wrote in a letter to Danville City Council.

“It’s just maintenance of the batteries,” he said. “We don’t anticipate it being a significant cost [to keep the cars].”

Fermata, founded by University of Virginia engineering professor David Slutzky, received a $2 million Tobacco Commission grant in May 2014 to operate within the tobacco region’s footprint.

Danville became a project testing ground for Fermata’s vehicle-to-grid power storage technology.

Fermata set up vehicle-to-grid — or v2g — bidirectional chargers in the city, using the company’s technology that stores power. The city has charging stations at the Municipal Building in the small parking lot next to the Danville Police Department and at the parking behind the James F. Ingram Justice Center.

The cars provide power to the city’s grid while plugged up to the chargers and fully charged, City Manager Ken Larking said. The vehicles will be of great benefit to the city, he said.

“We’ve got four vehicles we didn’t have to pay for,” Larking said. “It saves us from having to buy four vehicles. It’s also great they’re easy on the environment.”

Danville’s fleet currently includes one or two hybrid cars and several propane vehicles, while the rest are diesel or gas vehicles, Larking said.

City Council will consider whether to accept the four electric vehicles and the chargers during its meeting Tuesday night.

John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at jcrane@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7987.

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