While Houston isn't known as the coldest of climates, you still might want to review this myth-busting guest column. Photo via Pexels

Winter range loss is fueling this season’s heated debate around the viability of electric vehicles, but some important context is needed. Gasoline cars, just like their electric counterparts, lose a significant amount of range in cold weather too.

According to the Department of Energy, the average internal combustion engine’s fuel economy is 15 percent lower at 20° Fahrenheit than it would be at 77° Fahrenheit, and can drop as much as 24 percent for short drives.

As the world grapples with the implications of climate change and shifts toward sustainable technologies, it's important to put the pros and cons of EVs and traditional gas vehicles in perspective. And while Houston isn't known as the coldest of climates, you still might want to review this information.

The Semantics of Energy Consumption Hide the Real Issue: Cost

First, let's talk about the language. When discussing gas vehicles in cold climates, the conversation often centers around "fuel efficiency." It sounds less threatening, doesn't it? But in reality, this is just a euphemism for range loss, something for which EVs are frequently criticized.

Why does that matter? Because for most drivers who travel less than 40 miles a day, what range loss really means is higher fueling costs. When a gas vehicle loses range, it costs a lot more than the same range loss in an EV. For example, at $3.50 a gallon, a car that gets 30 MPG in warm weather and costs $46.67 to go 400 miles suddenly costs $8.24 more to drive the same distance. By contrast, an EV plugging in at $0.13 per kWh usually costs $13 to go 400 miles and bumps up to a piddly $16.25 even if it loses 20 percent efficiency when the temperature drops.

Some EV models lose 40 percent in extreme cold. OK, tack on another $3. That still leaves almost $30 in the driver’s pocket. Over the course of a year, those savings pile up.

Let’s Call It What It Is: Fear Mongering

Any seismic shift in technology comes with consumer hesitancy and media skepticism. Remember when everyone was afraid to stand in front of microwaves and thought the waves would make the food unsafe to eat? Or how, just a decade or so back everyone was talking about how cell phones could spontaneously explode?

Fear of new technology is a natural psychological response and to be expected. But it takes the media machine to turn consumer hesitation into a frenzy. Any way you slice it, 2023 was one big platform for expressing fears around EVs. Headline-grabbing tales of EV woes often lacked context or understanding of the technology. In a highly partisan landscape where EVs have been dubbed liberal leftist technology, what should be seen as a miraculous pro-American, pro-clean-air, pro-energy independence, pro-cost saving advancement is getting a beating in the press. In this environment, every bit of “bad EV news” spirals out into an echo-chamber of confirmation bias.

For example, Tesla’s recent software update was hyped as a 2 million vehicle “recall” even though the software was updated over the air without a single car needing to leave the driveway. Hertz's recent decision to reduce its Tesla fleet was seen by many as a referendum on the cars’ quality but was actually a decision based on Hertz’s miscalculations around repair costs and a mismatch in their projections of consumer demand for EV rentals.

While the cost of repairs might be higher, maintenance and fuel costs are still much lower than gas vehicles. EVs are better daily-use cars than rentals because while our country’s public charging infrastructure is still lagging, home charging is a huge benefit of EV ownership. Instead, the Hertz move and the negative coverage are further spooking the public.

The Truth About EVs

Despite the challenges, it's crucial to acknowledge the environmental advantages of EVs. For instance, EVs produce zero direct emissions, which significantly reduces air pollution and greenhouse gasses. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EVs are far more energy efficient than gas-powered cars, converting more than 77 percent of electrical energy from the grid to power, compared to 12-30 percent for gasoline vehicles.

This efficiency translates to a cleaner, more sustainable mode of transportation. And stories of EVs stranded in Chicago aside, generally they perform well in cold weather, as clearly demonstrated in Norway. In Norway, the average temperature hovers a solid 10 degrees lower than in the U.S. Yet 93 percent of new cars sold there are electric. The first-ever drive from the north to the south pole was also completed by an electric vehicle. The success story of EVs in Norway and demonstration projects in harsh winter climates serve as a powerful counterargument to the notion that EVs are ineffective in cold weather.

So where does this leave us? The discourse around EVs and gasoline vehicles in cold weather needs a more balanced and factual approach. The range loss in gasoline vehicles is a significant issue that mirrors the challenges faced by EVs. By acknowledging this and understanding the broader context, we can have a more informed and equitable discussion about the future of automotive technology and its impact on our environment.

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Kate L. Harrison is the co-founder and head of marketing at MoveEV, an AI-backed EV transition company that helps organizations convert fleet and employee-owned gas vehicles to electric, and reimburse for charging at home.

Here's a closer look at why Houston should be pushing for a more rapid transition to EVs. Photo via Getty Images

5 reasons Houston should prioritize electric vehicle adoption in 2024

guest column

As urban populations increase and more vehicles hit the roads across the United States, the quality of the air is compromised, directly impacting health, environment, and quality of life ― especially for children, minorities, and other vulnerable populations. A 2023 study by Site Selection Group placed Houston at the vanguard of this trend, projecting the metro area to grow nearly 10 percent by 2028, eclipsing 8 million residents.

According to Evolve Houston, a nonprofit working to accelerate EV adoption by bringing together local public and private organizations, residents, and government, the transportation sector emits 47 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the Houston area.

In this context, electric vehicles offer a practical solution to mitigate the challenges posed by tailpipe emissions. Their adoption in urban settings has the potential to significantly improve air quality and enhance public health. It’s no wonder the upcoming Houston Auto Show will feature a dedicated EV Pavilion.

Here's a closer look at why Houston should be pushing for a more rapid transition to EVs:

  1. Children’s development is at stake: Early childhood is a critical period for brain development. However, toxic air pollutants can significantly inhibit this growth during these formative years. The consequences include impairing children’s cognitive capabilities in reading and math, akin to missing an entire month of elementary school.
  2. EVs counteract historical racial inequalities: Beyond being an environmental challenge, air pollution is a glaring racial and social justice issue. Areas with fewer White residents suffer almost triple the nitrogen dioxide levels compared to predominantly White zones, as highlighted by the National Academy of Sciences. Historically marginalized communities, often near major traffic corridors, endure heightened pollution exposure. Transitioning to EVs can help address these deeply ingrained environmental inequities.
  3. The health benefits are monumental: A brighter future awaits if EVs become mainstream. According to the American Lung Association, if all new vehicles sold by 2035 are zero-emission, the U.S. could see up to 89,300 fewer premature deaths by 2050. Additionally, asthma attacks might decline by 2 million, saving 10.7 million workdays and resulting in an incredible $978 billion in public health savings.
  4. Global success stories prove the benefits: The impact of mass EV adoption has already been demonstrated outside the U.S. For instance, Norway has seen a notable reduction in dangerous particle emissions since 87 percent of its new car sales are now fully electric. Likewise, California’s adoption of electric vehicles correlated with a 3.2% decrease in asthma-related ER visits between 2013 and 2019.
  5. Cities have the power and means to lead the way: Many global cities are trailblazers in the electric transition. New York City, with more than 4,000 government-owned EVs, is a prime example. Moreover, by electrifying their take-home fleets, cities can set a precedent for their communities. Seeing neighbors drive electric vehicles daily serves as a powerful endorsement, motivating nearby residents to make the switch. Incentives like public charging stations, free parking for EVs, rebates for home charger installations, reimbursing for charging at home, and reduced tolls, further bolster this movement.

Houstonians stand at a pivotal juncture. The choices made today concerning transportation will profoundly influence the health and well-being of residents tomorrow. The shift to electric vehicles is more than just an eco-friendly choice; it's a commitment to a brighter, cleaner future. By leading with action and vision, cities can create a legacy that upcoming generations will appreciate and thrive in.

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Kate L. Harrison is the co-founder and head of marketing at MoveEV, an AI-backed EV transition company that helps organizations convert fleet and employee-owned gas vehicles to electric, and reimburse for charging at home.

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

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

by the numbers

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.

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

Texas to receive $70M to build EV charging network

follow the funding

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.”

Congress approved $7.5 billion in the 2021 infrastructure law to meet President Joe Biden's goal of building out a national network of 500,000 publicly available chargers by 2030. The charging ports are a key part of Biden's effort to encourage drivers to move away from gasoline-powered cars and trucks that contribute to global warming.

But progress on the network has been slow. Ohio and New York are the only states that have opened charging stations under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program. Several other states, including Pennsylvania and Maine, have broken ground on federally funded projects and are expected to open stations early this year. A total of 28 states, plus Puerto Rico, have either awarded contracts to build chargers or have accepted bids to do so.

The grants announced Thursday include $311 million to 36 “community” projects, including two Native American Tribes in Alaska and Arizona. The projects will boost EV charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure in urban and rural communities, including at high-use locations such as schools, parks, libraries and apartment buildings.

About $70 million will go to the North Central Texas Council of Governments to build up to five hydrogen fueling stations for medium- and heavy-duty freight trucks in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. The project will help create a “hydrogen fueling corridor” from southern California to Texas.

Another $312 million in funding will go to 11 highway “corridors” along roadways designated as Alternative Fuel Corridors. The projects include $19.6 million for publicly accessible EV charging facility in Riverside County California, located midway between Los Angeles and Phoenix on the I-10 corridor. The project includes installation of six large chargers for heavy-duty vehicles and 30 fast chargers for light-duty vehicles; solar and battery energy storage systems; and amenities such as rest areas.

A pollution district in San Joaquin Valley, California will receive $56 million to build two state-of-the-art truck charging sites in Taft and Gustine, California, to support two of the nation’s busiest freight corridors along I-5. The sites will feature 90 fast chargers for passenger vehicles, 85 fast chargers for medium to heavy-duty EVs and 17 large chargers. The sites will also enhance grid stability with 63 acres of solar panels and battery electric storage systems.

Another $15 million will go to the Maryland Clean Energy Center to build 87 EV charging stations in urban, suburban and low- and moderate-income communities across the state. Proposed sites include Coppin State University, a historically Black school in Baltimore, and 34 disadvantaged communities with multi-family housing.

Since Biden took office in 2021, EV sales have more than quadrupled and reached more than 1 million last year. The number of publicly available charging ports has grown by nearly 70 percent to 168,426, White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi said.

That number is about one-third of the way to Biden's goal, with six years remaining.

“We are on an accelerating trajectory to meet and exceed the president’s goal to hit 500,000 chargers and build that nationwide backbone,'' Zaidi told reporters Wednesday.

Widespread availability of chargers is crucial to meet another Biden administration goal: ensuring that EVs make up half of all new car sales by 2030. Along with cost, “range anxiety” about a lack of available charging stations is a key impediment to buying an EV. About 80 percent of respondents cited concerns about a lack of charging stations as a reason not to purchase an electric vehicle, according to an April survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

Seven in 10 respondents said they would not purchase an EV because they take too long to charge and the battery technology isn’t ready.

Buttigieg and other administration officials brushed those concerns aside and said the future of auto travel is electric.

“We’re at a moment now where the electric vehicle revolution isn't coming. It is very much here,'' Buttigieg told reporters. EV sales now represent about 9 percent of all passenger vehicle sales, Buttigieg said — a huge increase since Biden took office. He cited a new study showing that EV's cost just 4 percent more than gasoline-powered cars.

"There's been a really remarkable drop in the prices that consumers face for EVs. And we believe we are fast approaching the period when EVs, on average, will be cheaper than internal combustion vehicles,'' Buttigieg said.

In the latest installment of the Texas Trends survey, only 5.1 percent of Texans currently drive an electric-powered car, truck, or SUV. Photo via Getty Images

New report reveals EV adoption in Texas remains low

by the numbers

Interest in electric vehicles remains low in Texas, according to a recent report by University of Houston and Texas Southern University.

In the latest installment of the Texas Trends survey, only 5.1 percent of Texans currently drive an electric-powered car, truck, or SUV. Nearly 60 percent said they were not too likely or not at all likely to consider leasing or purchasing an electric vehicle in the future.

Respondents said that the largest factor in not opting for an EV was scarcity of charging stations. Other holdbacks included higher purchase prices, and not being able to charge an EV at home.

Acceptance of EVs did vary by respondents’ ethnicity, income, political affiliation and age:

-Asian-American respondents expressed the most interest (57 percent of respondents) in someday purchasing or leasing an EV.

-Those in the highest earning bracket voiced the highest interest in owning or leasing an EV one day. About 40% of those with an annual family income exceeding $80,000 said they'd consider an EV

-About 70% of Republicans and more than 60% of independents said they were not likely to ever buy or lease an EV

The researchers also posed an analysis to test if respondents would be more willing to purchase or lease an EV with lower purchasing prices, lower operating costs and decreased charging times. The factor that seemed to sway respondents most was length/duration of driving range on a single charge.

"If driving distances were longer on an EV’s single charge than with a full tank in a gas-powered vehicle–along with hypothetical situations lowered purchase prices, lowered operating costs and decreased charging times–respondents indicated they would go electric," according to a release from UH.

The EV portion of the report is the latest installment in the Texas Trends survey, a five-year project to study the state’s changing population and opinions, which was launched in 2021.

Other portions of the study focused on state propositions, school vouchers, primary elections, the summer heat wave and climate change.

The survey was conducted between Oct. 6 and Oct. 18 in English and Spanish for 1,914 respondents.

According to the report, 51 percent of Texans believe climate change significantly impacts extreme weather events. About 47 percent of those who acknowledge the impact of climate change on weather are likely to consider buying an electric vehicle.

About three-quarters (75.8 percent) of Texans describe the summer of 2023 as hotter than previous summers.

Meanwhile, the City of Houston has been working to accelerate EV adoption in the area.

Evolve Houston, founded through Houston's Climate Action Plan, awarded its inaugural eMobility Microgrant Initiative this summer to 13 groups, neighborhoods and an individual working to make electric vehicles accessible to all Houstonians.

The city also 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. Click here to read more.

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Houston companies land DOE vouchers for clean tech

money moves

Ten Houston-area companies will receive vouchers from the Department of Energy's latest round of funding to support the adoption of clean energy tech.

The companies are among 111 organizations to receive up to $250,000 in vouchers from the DOE's Office of Technology Transitions, totaling $9.8 million in funding, according to a release from the department.

The voucher program is in collaboration with the Offices of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). It is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“It takes a breadth of tools and expertise to bring an innovative technology from research and development to deployment,” Vanessa Z. Chan, DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of the Office of Technology Transitions, says in a statement. “The Voucher Program will pair 111 clean energy solutions with the support they need from expert voucher providers to help usher new technologies to market.”

In addition to the funding, the program seeks to help small businesses and non-traditional organizations gain access to testing facilities and third-party expertise.

The vouchers come in five different opportunities that focus on different areas of business growth and support:

  • Voucher Opportunity 1 (VO1) - Pre-Demonstration Commercialization Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 2 (VO2) - Performance Validation, Modeling, and Certification Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 3 (VO3) - Clean Energy Demonstration Project Siting/Permitting Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 4 (VO4) - Commercialization Support (for companies with a functional technology prototype)
  • Voucher Opportunity 5 (VO5) - Commercialization Support (for developers, including for-profit firms, that are working to commercialize a prototype that fits a specific technology vertical of interest for DOE)

The 10 Houston-area companies to receive funding, their voucher type and projects include:

  • Terradote Inc. with Big Blue Technologies Inc. (VO2): Full ISO-Compliant Life Cycle Assessment for Clean Energy Technologies
  • Solugen Inc. and Encina with ACTion Battery Technologies L.L.C. and Frontline Waste Holding LLC (Vo2): Barracuda Virtual Reactor Simulation, Validation and Testing
  • Flow Safe with Concept Group LLC and Precision Fluid Control (VO2): Durability Testing of Hydrogen Components, Materials, and Storage Systems
  • Percheron Power LLC (VO4): Fundraising Support
  • Capwell Services Inc. with Banyu Carbon Inc. (VO5): Field Testing Support for Validation of Novel Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Syzygy Plasmonics with Ample Carbon PBC, Terraform Industries, Lydian Labs Inc. and Vycarb Inc. (VO5): Rapid Life Cycle Assessment for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Solidec Inc. with GreenFire Energy (VO5): LCA Calculator Tool for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Encino Environmental Services LLC with Wood Cache, Completion Corp and Carbon Lockdown (VO5): Realtime Above/Underground Gas Monitoring Reporting and Verification, Including Cloud Connectivity for Remote Sites
  • Mati Carbon PBC with Ebb Carbon Inc. (VO5): Community Benefits Assessment and Environmental Justice

Other Texas-based companies to receive funding included Molecular Rebar Design LLC and Talus Renewables from Austin, Deep Anchor Solutions from College Station, and ACTion Battery Technologies LLC from Wichita Falls.

Last October, the DOE also awarded the Houston area more than $2 million for projects that improve energy efficiency and infrastructure in the region.

In December, its Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations also selected a Houston power company for a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage project cost-sharing agreement.

New global report names top cleantech startups to keep an eye on

seeing green

Nine Greentown Labs members were recognized on a global list honoring cleantech companies.

Houston-based Fervo Energy was named to Cleantech Group’s Global Cleantech 100 report. Cleantech Group is a research-driven company that aids the public sector, private sector, investors, and also identifies, assesses, and engages with the innovative solutions around climate challenges.

Fervo, a geothermal energy company that specializes in a renewable energy technology that uses hot water to produce electricity, debuted in 2022 on the list, and was honored in the “Energy & Power” category for the second straight year.

The other Greentown Labs, which is dual located in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, companies recognized on the list include:

  • Amogy, a New York-based novel carbon-free energy system using ammonia as a renewable fuel
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies, a Canadian waste and carbon utilization company
  • Dandelion Energy, New York-based company offering ground source heat pumps for most homes
  • Energy Dome, a Milan-based company addressing the problem of long-duration energy storage
  • e-Zinc, a Canadian company with a breakthrough electrochemical technology for energy storage
  • Nth Cycle, a Massachusetts company with sustainable metal refining
  • Raptor Maps, a Massachusetts company with a software platform for solar assets' performance data management
  • Sublime Systems, a Massachusetts companydeveloping a breakthrough process for low-carbon cement
  • WeaveGrid, a California company working with utilities, automakers, EVSEs, and EV owners to enable and accelerate the electrification of transportation

The number of nominations from the public, a panel, i3, awards and Cleantech Group totaled 25,435 from over 65 countries, which is a 61% increase from the 2023 nomination process. Winners were chosen from a short list of 330 companies by a panel of over 80 industry experts.

While not on the list, Beaumont-based Fortress Energy was mentioned for its electrolyzer supply agreement with Cleantech Group 100 winner Electric Hydrogen.

The Cleantech Group 100 was started 15 years ago.

“In 15 more years, we will be at 2039—by which time, a mere decade out from the ‘net-zero’ target of 2050,” Cleantech Group CEO Richard Youngman says in the report. “I would expect the composition of our annual list to have markedly changed again, and the leading upcoming private companies of that time to reflect such.”