driving toward progress

Texas ranks high on new EV study, but Houston was outpaced by other metros

Here's how Houston and Texas fared on a new electric vehicle report. Photo via Getty Images

A new study shows that Texas is among the top of the pack for states with the most electric vehicle registrations. But Houston falls behind other large metros in the state for EV friendliness.

The March report from StorageCafe, which compiled data from the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Department of Energy and other sources, 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 by a longshot with 878,000 registrations, claiming the number one spot. Florida had the second-most registrations at 128,000.

The report also looked at EV friendliness, which factored in EV registrations as well as the number of charging stations per household, EV exemptions, incentives and various other factors.

Houston was ranked 32nd on the friendliness list. The report found that Bayou City drivers registered 27,251 EVs in 2021. Charging stations are available in about 3.8 percent of rental buildings and there are 0.2 charging stations for every 1,000 households in the city.

Dallas claimed the top spot for the state at No. 15 with more than 29,000 EV registrations in 2021. Though Dallas has the same ratio of EV charging stations per household, there are more charging stations in rental buildings in the city.

Austin, at No. 22, also outranked Houston. Though the capital city only registered 8,730 EVs in 2021 there are much more charging stations per household (0.7 for every 1,000) and in rental buildings (5.5 percent).

San Antonio came in at No. 36, the McAllen area at No. 75, and El Paso at No. 83.

Seattle was named the friendliest place to own an EV. The drivers in the city registered more than 47,000 EVs in 2021.

Doug Ressler, a business intelligence manager at Yardi Matrix, which contributed to the report, weighed in on the findings.

“The electric car movement is gaining momentum, but it isn’t without its challenges. The high price of an EV–although brought down by incentives now – range and charging stations still pose some problems," he said in a statement. "However, with the expansion of the charging network–including in apartment buildings–and the gradual lowering of the EV price, buying and using an EV can become mainstream in the foreseeable future."

He also estimated that EVs will "dominate the car market" by 2045. By 2050, he said EVs could make up about 90 percent of the market.

Earlier this month Hertz announced that it would triple Houston's electric rental fleet, as well as add a fast-charging hub to Hobby Airport that's designed to serve ride-hail, taxi fleets and the general public.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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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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