Tesla warned that sales growth this year may be “notably lower” than the 2023 growth rate, as it works to launch a more affordable next-generation vehicle at a factory near Austin. Photo courtesy of Tesla

Shares of Tesla tumbled at the opening bell Thursday as the electric vehicle, solar panel and battery maker warned investors of slower sales growth this year after posting fourth-quarter results that were weaker than most had expected.

In a letter to shareholders released Wednesday, Tesla warned that sales growth this year may be “notably lower” than the 2023 growth rate, as it works to launch a more affordable next-generation vehicle at a factory near Austin.

Tesla, the letter said, is between two big growth waves, one from global expansion of the Models 3 and Y, and a second coming from the new vehicle.

The company, which is headed by billionaire Elon Musk, reported a fourth-quarter adjusted profit of 71 cents per share on revenue of $25.17 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet predicted a profit of 73 cents per share. Revenue was expected to be $25.64 billion.

Profits were off because Tesla lowered prices worldwide through the year in an effort to boost its sales and market share.

Shares slid more than 9 percent in Thursday morning trading.

Wedbush's Dan Ives said in a client note that Tesla's conference call on Wednesday to go over its financial results left many frustrated.

“Consistent with last quarter’s call, investors wanted to get their arms around the falling margins and constant, never ending price cuts seen globally, but instead, we heard from a much more cautious Musk who focused on production, next-gen vehicle timelines, and FSD/AI investments where much of the larger Tesla story was talked about instead of concrete guidance,” Ives wrote.

Still, the analyst remains optimistic on Tesla, believing that electric vehicle adoption to a broader mass market is near. However, Ives concedes there are still challenges to contend with.

“This is a pivotal period for Musk to get Tesla through that will help shape (or haunt) its EV future," he said.

Jeffrey Osborne of TD Cowen said that in the short term, it will be hard for EV competitors to catch up to Tesla as the company focuses on electrical efficiency and investing in battery technology. However, the analyst said there is “a great deal” of production-related risk in coming quarters that could possibly pressure margins and the stock as Tesla ramps up new plants in Germany and Texas and new vehicles.

A year ago, Tesla announced its plans to expand its Texas facility.

Mercedes-Benz HPC North America says it will build EV charging hubs at most Buc-ee’s stores, starting with about 30 hubs by the end of 2024. Photo courtesy of Mercedes

Texas gas station favorite scores Mercedes-Benz partnership for EV chargers

plugging in

Buc-ee’s, the beloved Lake Jackson-based chain of convenience stores, has plugged into a partnership with a Mercedes-Benz business unit to install electric vehicle charging stations at Buc-ee’s locations.

Mercedes-Benz HPC North America says it will build EV charging hubs at most Buc-ee’s stores, starting with about 30 hubs by the end of 2024. Some Buc-ee’s hubs already are being set up and are scheduled to begin supplying EV power by the end of this year.

Mercedes-Benz HPC, a subsidiary of the German automaker, is developing a U.S. and Canadian network of EV charging stations. All of the stations will run solely on renewable energy.

“Buc-ee’s values people and partnerships,” Jeff Nadalo, general counsel at Buc-ee’s, says in a news release. “Our new collaboration with Mercedes-Benz HPC North America will continue our traditions of elevated customer convenience and excellent service that have won the hearts, trust, and business of millions in the South for more than 40 years.”

Buc-ee’s — hailed for its squeaky-clean restrooms, abundance of fuel pumps, and unique food — operates 34 supersized convenience stores in Texas and 12 locations in other states. Another seven locations are under construction in Texas, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Missouri.

“Mercedes-Benz HPC North America's collaboration with Buc-ee’s represents an important moment in our pursuit of a national charging network that sets a new standard in both convenience and quality,” says Andrew Cornelia, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz HPC.

“Within a remarkably short period,” Cornelia adds, “we’ve made significant strides towards opening several charging hubs at Buc-ee’s travel centers. Buc-ee’s strategic locations along major travel routes, combined with their commitment to clean and accessible amenities, aligns perfectly with our vision.”

In January 2023, Mercedes-Benz announced plans to install 10,000 EV chargers worldwide, including North America, Europe, and China. Mercedes-Benz drivers will be able to book a charging station from their car, but the network will be available to all motorists.

“The locations and surroundings of the Mercedes-Benz charging hubs will be carefully selected with wider customer needs in mind. Our best possible charging experience will therefore come with food outlets and restrooms situated nearby,” says Mercedes-Benz HPC.

Each hub will feature four to 12 chargers and ultimately as many as 30 chargers.

Mercedes-Benz says more than $1 billion is being invested in the North American charging network, which is set to be completed by 2029 or 2030. The cost will be split between the automaker and solar power producer MN8 Energy, a New York City-based spinoff of banking giant Goldman Sachs.

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

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

driving energy transition

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.”

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

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

driving toward progress

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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Greentown Labs to launch another executive search, CEO to step down after less than a year in the position

on the hunt

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

Houston expert: How to make the EV switch while factoring in impact, cost

Guest Column

Americans are in the midst of getting to know electric cars up close and personal. The finer points of charging and battery technology are now becoming mainstream news.

However, there’s a secret about electric vehicles (EVs) that very few people know, because very few people have driven an electric car with 50,000 or 100,000 miles on it. Very often, EVs drive like new even if they’ve clocked up the miles. No rattles and no shakes, and importantly there is no loss of efficiency, unlike gas cars which tend to lose fuel efficiency as they age. Most strikingly, battery degradation and loss of range is often minimal — even after the odometer hits 6 digits.

What does this mean? At a time when car payments, repair costs and gas prices are all weighing on consumer wallets, we are about to enter an era when it will get easier than ever before for Americans to find a great driving, longer lasting car that saves on fuel costs and needs less maintenance.

This represents an amazing source of value for American drivers to be tapped into - plus even more positive changes for the auto sector, and the potential for new business models.

Narratives about EVs have focused on fears about battery degradation and today’s models becoming dated as technology rapidly advances. The fact that we are all habituated to replacing smartphone batteries that fade within 2 to 3 years doesn’t help.

Auto manufacturers have put 100,000 mile warranties on batteries, but this may have created the perception that this is a ceiling, rather than a floor, for what can be expected from an EV battery.

EV batteries are performing much better than your last smartphone battery. We know this with growing certainty because it’s backed up by evidence. Data reveals that older Teslas average only 12 percent loss of original range at 200,000 miles — double the warranty period.

Furthermore, battery advances are happening at an encouraging pace. You can expect that newer batteries will start with higher ranges and degrade even more slowly. And even after they do, the value shorter range will increase as charging infrastructure matures.

In other words, a 2024 Volkswagen ID.4 with 291 miles of range may be down to 260 miles by the time it has put on 100,000 miles. But in the 5 to 7 years that typically takes, the buildout of charging stations means that range will have much more utility than today.

So in sum, electric vehicles can be expected to last longer with lower maintenance. Over-the-air software upgrades, and perhaps even computing hardware upgrades, will keep them feeling modern. Charging infrastructure will improve much faster than range will degrade. And crucially for the value of these cars, the drive quality will remain great much further into product lifetime.

The trend for driving older cars is already here – the average age of a car on US roads is 12 years old and rising. But now this will shift towards better quality, plus fuel savings, for more people.

New business models and services will help customers take advantage — especially those customers for whom lower cost EVs will represent a step up and savings on the cost of living.

At Houston-based Octopus Electric Vehicles, we are doing this today with something virtually unheard of: leasing pre-owned cars. With electric cars that are 1 to 4 years old, with clean histories and in excellent cosmetic and mechanical condition but depreciated relative to new EV prices, we are frequently able to offer discounts of 30 percent or more, even against heavily incentivized lease offers from automakers. And, because EV maintenance needs are lower, we can throw in free scheduled maintenance with our monthly payment, delivered by a mobile mechanic service.

The secret value of higher-mileage EVs won’t stay secret for long. There’s no replacing first hand experience, and you can probably get that the next time you order an Uber or Lyft by choosing their EV ride options. Before your ride is up, try to guess what’s on the odometer. You may be surprised to hear from your driver that the car you thought was brand new has 50,000 or 100,000 miles on it.

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Nathan Wyeth is the United States co-lead at Octopus Electric Vehicles.

New endangered listing for rare lizard could slow oil and gas drilling in Texas, New Mexico

to save the species

Federal wildlife officials declared a rare lizard in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas an endangered species Friday, citing future energy development, sand mining and climate change as the biggest threats to its survival in one of the world’s most lucrative oil and natural gas basins.

“We have determined that the dunes sagebrush lizard is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. It concluded that the lizard already is “functionally extinct” across 47 percent of its range.

Much of the the 2.5-inch-long (6.5-centimeter), spiny, light brown lizard's remaining habitat has been fragmented, preventing the species from finding mates beyond those already living close by, according to biologists.

“Even if there were no further expansion of the oil and gas or sand mining industry, the existing footprint of these operations will continue to negatively affect the dunes sagebrush lizard into the future,” the service said in its final determination, published in the Federal Register.

The decision caps two decades of legal and regulatory skirmishes between the U.S. government, conservationists and the oil and gas industry. Environmentalists cheered the move, while industry leaders condemned it as a threat to future production of the fossil fuels.

The decision provides a “lifeline for survival” for a unique species whose “only fault has been occupying a habitat that the fossil fuel industry has been wanting to claw away from it,” said Bryan Bird, the Southwest director for Defenders of Wildlife.

“The dunes sagebrush lizard spent far too long languishing in a Pandora’s box of political and administrative back and forth even as its population was in free-fall towards extinction,” Bird said in a statement.

The Permian Basin Petroleum Association and the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association expressed disappointment, saying the determination flies in the face of available science and ignores longstanding state-sponsored conservation efforts across hundreds of thousands of acres and commitment of millions of dollars in both states.

“This listing will bring no additional benefit for the species and its habitat, yet could be detrimental to those living and working in the region,” PBPA President Ben Shepperd and NMOGA President and CEO Missi Currier said in a joint statement, adding that they view it as a federal overreach that can harm communities.

Scientists say the lizards are found only in the Permian Basin, the second-smallest range of any North American lizard. The reptiles live in sand dunes and among shinnery oak, where they feed on insects and spiders and burrow into the sand for protection from extreme temperatures.

Environmentalists first petitioned for the species' protection in 2002, and in 2010 federal officials found that it was warranted. That prompted an outcry from some members of Congress and communities that rely on oil and gas development for jobs and tax revenue.

Several Republican lawmakers sent a letter to officials in the Obama administration asking to delay a final decision, and in 2012, federal officials decided against listing the dunes sagebrush lizard.

Then-U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at the time that the decision was based on the “best available science” and because of voluntary conservation agreements in place in New Mexico and Texas.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said in Friday's decision that such agreements “have provided, and continue to provide, many conservation benefits” for the lizard, but “based on the information we reviewed in our assessment, we conclude that the risk of extinction for the dunes sagebrush lizard is high despite these efforts.”

Among other things, the network of roads will continue to restrict movement and facilitate direct mortality of dunes sagebrush lizards from traffic, it added, while industrial development “will continue to have edge effects on surrounding habitat and weaken the structure of the sand dune formations.”