There’s no dearth of garage orphans, or cars that lack dedicated parking spaces, in New York City. America’s largest city is adopting EVs more quickly than many people think, but the lack of adequate public charging infrastructure, especially fast and reliable curbside charging, remains a lingering issue.

High real estate costs and notoriously slow building permits mean constructing large charging stations with no parking fees isn’t exactly easy in NYC. So a bunch of new start-ups are now scrambling to install smart curbside chargers. Among them is Google-backed start-up Gravity, and its new approach to this also means a novel way to do DC fast charging.

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Urban hubs like New York, where space isn't a luxury, real estate costs are astronomical, and permitting processes are lengthy, suffer from inadequate charging infrastructure, hampering EV sales. But start-ups are now finding innovative curbside solutions to solve charging problems for apartment residents.

Gravity started as an electric taxi fleet operator back in 2021 and then pivoted to building charging stations. It recently inaugurated a 500-kilowatt, 24-stall charging station in the heart of Manhattan near Times Square. Now it wants to deploy a curbside charging solution dubbed “DEAP Trees.” The abbreviation stands for what the company calls distributed energy access points.

Unlike Flo's Level 2 curbside chargers, Gravity has Level 3 DC fast units. This is a big deal because curbside charging has so far been restricted to Level 2 speeds. Depending on the EV and its voltage architecture, these DEAP Trees can add 200 miles of range in 13 minutes with a 200 kW dispenser, or just five minutes with the 500 kW charger. They can also deliver 1,000 volts, the company said and don’t require any utility upgrades.

These chargers are located on sidewalks, with a hinged swing arm holding a cable that pivots down when charging begins. The charger is mounted at the top of the pole. The swingarm is located further above, as it holds the weight of the thick high-voltage cable so that EV owners don’t have to wrestle it. Gravity says the cord can reach charging ports on either side and is compatible with all EVs.

When charging is complete, the arm raises automatically, and the connector latches back onto the pole. The poles don’t seem to occupy much space on the sidewalks, and the retracting mechanism of the heavy cables appears unobtrusive to pedestrians. But how weatherproof these poles would be and how reliable the swing arm would be is something only time will tell.

Interestingly, Gravity also said that the city can use its poles to accommodate traffic safety cameras, street lighting, public Wi-Fi, air quality sensors and integrated audio or video systems for public communication.

The sleekest curbside chargers we've seen yet are coming soon from Brooklyn-based upstart itselectric, which uses silver-colored Level 2 posts with curly charging cables. Level 3 chargers such as Gravity’s require more engineering and design effort since the chargers themselves tend to be bulky and complex.

According to the NYC Department of Transportation, curbside chargers have a surprisingly high usage rate. That's despite gas cars gobbling dedicated EV parking spots 20% of the time during the first 18 months of the city's pilot program launched in partnership with Flo.

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