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Gravity, it's DEAP trees, and what they're not telling us

Caution, High Voltage! ⚡

Gravity, the US charging startup, unveiled DEAP Trees: 200 or 500kW chargers that can be deployed curbside and, by their claims, require no utility upgrades. (link)

Bidirectional-ready. Good on the eyes. No tripping hazards. High power.

What’s not to love?

Image: Gravity

Now if this sounds fishy to you (it should — no utility upgrade for 200-500kW DC?), let me explain what’s probably going on.

I believe the way this is presented is almost misleading, really, due to the PR not disclosing the actual logic behind the system (and media happily picking it up).

* Jaan puts his skeptic hat on *

We’ve reported in our Pro Report #123 (here, join us if you haven’t) how Gravity built a high-power system like this (24 × 500kW) in a Manhattan parking garage, with virtually no charger footprint by parking spots. The answer is hidden in the DEAP acronym, which stands for Distributed Energy Access Points.

The Manhattan parking garage dispensers (DEAPs)

This is great.

Naturally, for curbside charging, one has no way of pulling 200kW-500kW from residential households, as seen on the top image with the ‘trees’. That’s where I think they are kind of misleading here.

The DEAPs are just dispensers, and they pull their needs from the power cabinet that are — perhaps that’s the innovation part here — up to 500 feet (150 meters) away. And that’s where you’ll still run into your same old problems as everyone else — grid access to pull enough power.

Yes, the differentiating factor is also that the dispensers look sleek and well-designed to take little to no space, and we need that.

But I am very certain, that they should not make it look like they are changing out the L2 curbside chargers to 200-500kW just by magic. Yes, I reread several of their press releases several times to find out if they talk anything about it. No, they don’t.

I get that the best way to sell yourself and your product is by having an enemy of sorts, and seems that for Gravity, that enemy is curbside L2 charing. The CEO says on LinkedIn:

We cannot be slowed down by obsolete and unreliable "L2" extension cords with messy cables that also block the huge opportunity EV batteries have for a clean and stable grid.

— Moshe Cohen

Now, yes the Gravity “trees” look great for cable management, but in today’s world there are enough cable management systems available also for AC charging.

Purely my opinion, which I hold strongly enough to shout out here to counter: AC charging on the curbside is not going anywhere, and if anything, will expand. Gravity’s solution might be just one of the cool alternatives and we’ll see how much they can roll ‘em out.

Going through their product pages I see the emphasis on modularity, which is great, and which will likely come into play here too — I’d assume most of these ‘DEAP Trees’ will operate at a lot lower output than the headline 200kW-500kW, due to grid access limitations. And that’s fine too. I’m still excited about their rollout.

Anyway, Gravity touts big plans in its press release — “ striving to develop a network of on-street DEAP charging more expansive than Tesla's current Supercharger network.” That’s not going to happen, but I’m happy they are trying. They do try to mention Tesla in a lot of press releases it seems. Gravity’s chargers are UL Solutions certified, and the company is backed by GV (Google Ventures).

We’ve got so many charging experts reading this newsletter. Do let me know what you think, and if I’m wrong about calling Gravity out like this?

Now, this rant done, let’s get back to this week’s newsletter: (link)

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