Electric vehicle and infrastructure fleet start-up Gravity believes it has cracked the code for urban EV charging infrastructure.
The company, which was founded in February this year, announced its construction plan to convert a parking garage in mid-Manhattan into a public fast-charging center for EVs. When the 29-space 42nd Street garage, which Gravity leases from real estate company Related Companies, opens in a few weeks, it will be the island’s first dedicated electric vehicle charging area. Based on Gravity’s scaling plans, this won’t be the last.
“We’ll likely see five to ten fast-charging sites of different capacity in Manhattan over the next six months,” Moshe Cohen, CEO and founder of Gravity told TechCrunch. “We have supported Con Ed on dozens of sites in the five boroughs. We have studied the power grid and have plans to expand it as it does not work on an ad hoc basis. It works with a ladder, with areas of coverage.
Finding a place to park your car in New York is a nightmare in itself. Find a park and a charge for your EV is like finding a unicorn, and probably an expensive unicorn at that. Most of New York’s EV charging points are behind the literal parking lot payment walls, where you might find a Blink or two EV Connect chargers tucked away in a sea of ICE vehicle parking spaces. With the Gravity hub, parking is free while the cars are charging. The only cost is that of electricity.
Gravity is not the first to recognize the problem of electric vehicle charging in an urban core. Electric mobility company Revel, first known for its shared electric mopeds around New York City, opened the city’s first public fast-charging center in an outdoor lot in Brooklyn last June. Con Edison, the New York power company, supported both initiatives with its incentives and rewards for charging electric vehicles.
For the Gravity site in Manhattan Plaza, the company worked with Con Ed to extract standby capacity energy from two separate utility rooms on 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue, bringing in approximately 2,400 amps of power, this which, according to Cohen, is extremely rare to condense in one place. in any city, let alone New York.
Cohen said he spent a lot of time researching locations before choosing that first location for Gravity, and proximity to power wasn’t the only determining factor here. The site has its own dedicated entrance on 42nd Street and is located right between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, which is not only close to Times Square and the heart of the city, but also to the Lincoln Tunnel which provides access to and from New Jersey.
“Our vision is that we bring infrastructure to all the places where the cars are right now, so if you are in our coverage area you should never have to worry about recharging your vehicle because it will be loaded there. where it is parked. Cohen said. “So, if you think of dense urban areas like Manhattan or downtown Chicago, where are the cars parked? They are either on a sidewalk or inside parking garages, and their space is very limited. And so you have to design different equipments that take care of the space and power constraints so that the charging takes place in all these places. “
Design is a big part of Gravity’s business model, from the design of the space itself to the charging gear. The company says it works with Jasmit Rangr, an architect known for integrating his buildings with the landscape, climate and environment, to transform garages into attractive and welcoming spaces that house clean electric vehicles.
“The whole area is for electric vehicles, so this is really an opportunity to present an experience around what the world would be like if the car parking lots had no pollution or spillage of oil, ”Cohen said.
Indeed, the renderings look pretty flashy – not at all the dark, spooky, gas-smelling caverns one associates with city parking lots. Gravity says Rangr has also incorporated interactive touchscreens into the designs of the various spaces the company is building around New York City. The touchscreens are designed by Gravity to help users adjust and monitor their vehicle’s load as they wait among the illuminated wooden car compartments and try to decide whether the plant decor is real or fake.
Providing standardized and streamlined equipment was also a big concern for Cohen. He says the current model of public charging equipment in most cases includes an amalgamation of software, hardware and payment processing that is not very well integrated. Gravity worked with an anonymous manufacturing partner to solidify those segments and create a more seamless user experience, and that includes what’s going on behind the load, according to the company.
Gravity’s first site will accommodate around 22 fast chargers, three intermediate chargers and a few slow chargers. All fast chargers make up to 180 kW, which means that even when two vehicles are plugged into the same installation, each outlet can produce 90 kW of energy. Cohen says anything below 80kW isn’t really fast charging, and many companies that claim to offer fast charging are only really able to provide around 62.5kW. Cohen also says that by sending this current through 400-amp charging cables, even smaller volt batteries like Teslas’s can receive more than 80 kW.
Intermediate chargers use equipment of around 24kW to 30kW and charge cars in one to three hours. Slow chargers charge overnight or within six to eight hours using 11 kW equipment.
Most of the parking spaces will be occupied by Gravity’s fleet of yellow Tesla Model Y taxis, which will charge overnight, Cohen said. Bringing a fleet of electric taxis to New York City was actually the impetus behind building a charging infrastructure. Cohen has a soft spot for the yellow cab as an institution and wanted to find a way to give it a rebirth. He got the go-ahead from Tesla to hire the vehicles for this use case and worked with the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to change the rules so that a Tesla can be considered a taxi before it goes. embark on the more difficult task of recharging. the fleet.
“I spoke to all the major charging equipment companies and quickly realized that there was no charging equipment configured for charging fleets, and I realized the extent of the problem, ”Cohen said. “We started to think about infrastructure because the model just doesn’t work without infrastructure and a yellow cab using a Model Y requires high levels of use and scale.”
In May, the TLC approved the Gravity pilot program, and Cohen said the agency will issue a memorandum of understanding to continue the program in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Gravity wants to speed up the installation of large-scale equipment so that it can then develop its fleet.
“People think mobility is a drain of money and nobody understood that,” Cohen said. “I actually think that mobility and infrastructure are going to be solved together and that you can achieve generous usage margins. “