driving energy transition

This Houston organization is on a mission to shrink the city's carbon footprint — one EV at a time

Evolve Houston, founded in 2018 through Houston’s Climate Action Plan and relaunched last year, has launched a new tool for EV incentivization. Photo via Evolve

Equity and environmental impact characteristics often used to describe a company’s outlook on increased sustainability and fighting climate change.

Evolve Houston, which was founded in 2018 through Houston’s Climate Action Plan and relaunched last year, is one of the organizations leading the way, and now with their Grant Tracker program, they are giving back to those who are giving back to the planet.

“Raising awareness is a critical part of accelerating a new technology, this includes awareness of incentives that individuals and fleets in the Greater Houston region may be eligible for,” Casey Brown, executive director and president, tells EnergyCapital. “Beyond understanding incentives, most Houstonians have not experienced an EV for themselves. With the support of our Founding Members (Shell, NRG Energy, CenterPoint Energy, University of Houston, and the City of Houston), we offer educational and experiential ways for Houstonians to interact with EVs and learn more about the benefits.”

The Grant Tracker aims to make it easier to find funding opportunities, and assist with current grants available to organizations and individuals that are committed to a goal of zero emissions. The tracker serves as a tool to assist with purchasing an EV and charging equipment. Ultimately, Evolve wants to assist and fund those looking to make the transition to electric.

Anup Parikh and his company Pangea Charging, through EVOLVE, was granted a project to help bring charging capacity for EVs to help build the infrastructure in areas and apartment complexes that traditionally would not have them.

“People see electric vehicles as high-end and a luxury lifestyle, when in fact it can happen for everybody,” Parikh said in a promotional video.

In addition to the Grant Tracker program, Evolve’s Mobility Microgrant Initiative will partner with local nonprofits,community reviewers, and corporate catalysts to award funding to eMobility projects aimed at serving mobility needs in Houston's underserved neighborhoods. In July, Evolve teamed up with RYDE and District D Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz to bring the free on-demand electric local shuttle service to residents in the Third Ward area, which was one of the many microgrants associated with the project. RYDE’s service in the area has been extended recently into the fall and “until further notice” according to a newsletter from EVOLVE.

“Private investments in this sector follow EV adoption,“ Brown says. “Investing in areas early creates more opportunity for EV technology interaction and benefits.

"We are excited about the success of our Equity Program and the exciting projects it has funded across Houston," he continues. "Today, we accomplish this through our eMobility Microgrant Initiative, a community-led investment program focused on historically disadvantaged communities, and aimed to tackle community needs with electric vehicle technologies. We have had a very successful Round 1 of investments this year and we are excited to announce round two grant winners in January of 2024.”

As Evolve continues to evolve its sphere of influence, the company still aims for its goal to have half of the vehicles in the city be electric by 2030. The company says that EVs should be for all Houstonians, not just for some.

“Houston maintains some of the lowest population density and longest commute distances of major U.S. cities, and we have an immense amount of business and goods that flow through Houston,” Brown said. “We see a landscape that can uniquely achieve larger financial and environmental benefits of EV technologies. One way that we share these benefits is being the Presenting Sponsor of the Houston Auto Show. We also summarize the local EV sector through our R.I.S.E. report and maintain an actionable, forward view in our EV Roadmap; both sources can be found on our website and are undergoing a refresh as we close 2023.”

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A View From HETI

A View From UH

A Rice University professor studied the Earth's carbon cycle in the Rio Madre de Dios to shed light on current climate conditions. Photo courtesy of Mark Torres/Rice University

Carbon cycles through Earth, its inhabitants, and its atmosphere on a regular basis, but not much research has been done on that process and qualifying it — until now.

In a recent study of a river system extending from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon floodplains, Rice University’s Mark Torres and collaborators from five institutions proved that that high rates of carbon breakdown persist from mountaintop to floodplain.

“The purpose of this research was to quantify the rate at which Earth naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and find out whether this process varies across different geographic locations,” Torres says in a news release.

Torres published his findings in a study published in PNAS, explaining how they used rhenium — a silvery-gray, heavy transition metal — as a proxy for carbon. The research into the Earth’s natural, pre-anthropogenic carbon cycle stands to benefit humanity by providing valuable insight to current climate challenges.

“This research used a newly-developed technique pioneered by Robert Hilton and Mathieu Dellinger that relies on a trace element — rhenium — that’s incorporated in fossil organic matter,” Torres says. “As plankton die and sink to the bottom of the ocean, that dead carbon becomes chemically reactive in a way that adds rhenium to it.”

The research was done in the Rio Madre de Dios basin and supported by funding from a European Research Council Starting Grant, the European Union COFUND/Durham Junior Research Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation.

“I’m very excited about this tool,” Torres said. “Rice students have deployed this same method in our lab here, so now we can make this kind of measurement and apply it at other sites. In fact, as part of current research funded by the National Science Foundation, we are applying this technique in Southern California to learn how tectonics and climate influence the breakdown of fossil carbon.”

Torres also received a three-year grant from the Department of Energy to study soil for carbon storage earlier this year.

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