by the numbers

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.

The report used EV charger and station data for each state from the U.S. Department of Energy for 2022 and 2021. Population data is for 2022 and comes from the U.S. Census Bureau 1-Year American Community Survey. Cities were also ranked by the number of fast chargers per capita. In 2022, Texas had 1,386 fast DC chargers, 2,472 EV charging stations, and a fast charger growth year over year 53.5 percent.

Interest in electric vehicles ranked low in Texas according to a 2023 study by University of Houston and Texas Southern University. The Texas Trends survey revealed just 5.1 percent of Texans currently drive an electric-powered car, truck, or SUV, while 60 percent said they were not too likely or not at all likely to consider leasing or purchasing an electric vehicle in the future.

Even though in Texas, the interest in EVs may seem low, but Houston is trying to incorporate more innovation in this area. The city of Houston approved $281,000 funding for the expansion of free electric vehicle rideshare services in communities that are considered underserved by utilizing services like RYDE and Evolve Houston in December. The funding will be dispersed to RYDE in through the nonprofit Evolve Houston. Luxury rideshare company Alto, which currently operates in Inner Loop and Greater Houston, expanded its current service areas to The Woodlands and Spring, which will include an expanded fleet of EVs.

Another study showed that Texas is among the top of the pack for states with the most electric vehicle registrations, but Houston fell behind other large metros in the state for EV friendliness. The report from StorageCafe showed that Texas had the third-most EV registrations in the county in 2021 at 112,000 vehicles. California outpaced the rest of the country with 878,000 registrations for the No.1 ranking. The report found that Houston drivers registered 27,251 EVs in 2021.

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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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