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Texas to receive $70M to build EV charging network

The federal grants will fund 47 EV charging stations and related projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico, including 7,500 EV charging ports. Photo by Andrew Roberts/Unsplash

The Biden administration is awarding $623 million in grants to help build an electric vehicle charging network across the nation, and Texas is expected to see a chunk of that funding.

Grants being announced Thursday will fund 47 EV charging stations and related projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico, including 7,500 EV charging ports, officials said.

“America led the arrival of the automotive era, and now we have a chance to lead the world in the EV revolution — securing jobs, savings and benefits for Americans in the process,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The new funding “will help ensure that EV chargers are accessible, reliable and convenient for American drivers, while creating jobs in charger manufacturing, installation and maintenance for American workers.”

Congress approved $7.5 billion in the 2021 infrastructure law to meet President Joe Biden's goal of building out a national network of 500,000 publicly available chargers by 2030. The charging ports are a key part of Biden's effort to encourage drivers to move away from gasoline-powered cars and trucks that contribute to global warming.

But progress on the network has been slow. Ohio and New York are the only states that have opened charging stations under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program. Several other states, including Pennsylvania and Maine, have broken ground on federally funded projects and are expected to open stations early this year. A total of 28 states, plus Puerto Rico, have either awarded contracts to build chargers or have accepted bids to do so.

The grants announced Thursday include $311 million to 36 “community” projects, including two Native American Tribes in Alaska and Arizona. The projects will boost EV charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure in urban and rural communities, including at high-use locations such as schools, parks, libraries and apartment buildings.

About $70 million will go to the North Central Texas Council of Governments to build up to five hydrogen fueling stations for medium- and heavy-duty freight trucks in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. The project will help create a “hydrogen fueling corridor” from southern California to Texas.

Another $312 million in funding will go to 11 highway “corridors” along roadways designated as Alternative Fuel Corridors. The projects include $19.6 million for publicly accessible EV charging facility in Riverside County California, located midway between Los Angeles and Phoenix on the I-10 corridor. The project includes installation of six large chargers for heavy-duty vehicles and 30 fast chargers for light-duty vehicles; solar and battery energy storage systems; and amenities such as rest areas.

A pollution district in San Joaquin Valley, California will receive $56 million to build two state-of-the-art truck charging sites in Taft and Gustine, California, to support two of the nation’s busiest freight corridors along I-5. The sites will feature 90 fast chargers for passenger vehicles, 85 fast chargers for medium to heavy-duty EVs and 17 large chargers. The sites will also enhance grid stability with 63 acres of solar panels and battery electric storage systems.

Another $15 million will go to the Maryland Clean Energy Center to build 87 EV charging stations in urban, suburban and low- and moderate-income communities across the state. Proposed sites include Coppin State University, a historically Black school in Baltimore, and 34 disadvantaged communities with multi-family housing.

Since Biden took office in 2021, EV sales have more than quadrupled and reached more than 1 million last year. The number of publicly available charging ports has grown by nearly 70 percent to 168,426, White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi said.

That number is about one-third of the way to Biden's goal, with six years remaining.

“We are on an accelerating trajectory to meet and exceed the president’s goal to hit 500,000 chargers and build that nationwide backbone,'' Zaidi told reporters Wednesday.

Widespread availability of chargers is crucial to meet another Biden administration goal: ensuring that EVs make up half of all new car sales by 2030. Along with cost, “range anxiety” about a lack of available charging stations is a key impediment to buying an EV. About 80 percent of respondents cited concerns about a lack of charging stations as a reason not to purchase an electric vehicle, according to an April survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

Seven in 10 respondents said they would not purchase an EV because they take too long to charge and the battery technology isn’t ready.

Buttigieg and other administration officials brushed those concerns aside and said the future of auto travel is electric.

“We’re at a moment now where the electric vehicle revolution isn't coming. It is very much here,'' Buttigieg told reporters. EV sales now represent about 9 percent of all passenger vehicle sales, Buttigieg said — a huge increase since Biden took office. He cited a new study showing that EV's cost just 4 percent more than gasoline-powered cars.

"There's been a really remarkable drop in the prices that consumers face for EVs. And we believe we are fast approaching the period when EVs, on average, will be cheaper than internal combustion vehicles,'' Buttigieg said.

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A View From HETI

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want. Photo courtesy of Boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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