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Texas sees new EV funding, M&A moves, and more trending Houston energy transition news

Texas scores funding for EV infrastructure — and more top energy transition news. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: Looking back on the top news of the week, there are definitely some trends between electric vehicle moves and M&A activity. Scroll below for some of the top headlines that resonated with EnergyCapital readers on social media and daily newsletter this week.

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.” Continue reading.

Houston recycling company names new CEO

David Hudson has been named CEO of Elemental Recycling. Photo via LinkedIn

A Houston company that turns recycled plastics into high-purity graphene and hydrogen has named its new leader.

David Hudson has been named CEO of Elemental Recycling. The company, founded in 2019, is an investment of Freestone, a portfolio company of Tailwater Capital. He succeeds Tom Samuels, former CEO and board chair of the company.

"With over two decades of proven expertise in driving strategic growth and profitability across the recycling, waste management, sustainability, and decarbonization sectors, David brings a wealth of experience that makes him the ideal leader to take the reins and guide Elemental into its next phase of innovation and growth," Samuels says in a news release. "I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for the company under David's leadership. His proven track record and passion for driving positive change make him the perfect steward for the next chapter of Elemental's journey." Continue reading.

Houston energy PE firm acquires nuclear infrastructure company

Pelican Energy has acquired Container Technologies Industries, a manufacturer of containment solutions for the nuclear industry. Photo via containertechnologies.com

A Houston-based private equity firm has made a strategic acquisition.

Pelican Energy has acquired Container Technologies Industries from a group of private shareholders. CTI is a manufacturer of containment solutions for the nuclear industry and a certified HUBZone small-business whose customers include the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense and the commercial-nuclear space. Pelican makes investments in energy equipment and serves oil and gas companies and those in the nuclear sectors. Continue reading.

Texas finishes low on list of EV charging stations despite increased efforts in Houston

California, with its 14,500 charging stations, has more EV charging stations than New York, Florida, and Texas combined. Photo via Getty Images

In a new report that ranked states with the most electric vehicle chargers, Texas falls behind other similarly-sized states

The SmartAsset study looked at the closest EV charging stations equivalent to a trip to the gas station — factoring in each state's population. California, with its 14,500 charging stations, has five times the EV charging stations as New York (3,327), Florida (2,913) and Texas (2,472). While California ranked No. 1 on the list, Texas found itself at No. 41. Continue reading.

Houston energy company to combine with Chesapeake in $7.4B deal

Houston-based Southwestern Energy will combine with Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy. Photo via swn.com

Chesapeake Energy and Southwestern Energy are combining in a $7.4 billion all-stock deal to form one of the biggest natural gas producers in the U.S.

There have been a string of deals in the energy sector, including the nearly $60 billion acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources by ExxonMobil and a $53 billion deal between Chevron and Hess.

Southwestern shareholders will receive 0.0867 shares of Chesapeake common stock for each outstanding share of Southwestern common stock at closing.

Chesapeake shareholders will own about 60 percent of the combined company, while Southwestern shareholders will own approximately 40 percent. Continue reading.

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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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