Very often, EVs drive like new even if they’ve clocked up the miles, writes this Houston expert. Photo via Unsplash

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.

———

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

Advancements in charging technology also play a critical role to EV adoption.

Beyond range anxiety: The social dynamics powering EV adoption

Guest Column

Imagine a world where electric vehicles are as commonplace as smartphones. Not so long ago, this seemed like a distant dream, primarily due to the dreaded “range anxiety.” But today, the landscape is shifting dramatically thanks to a mix of technical advancements and social dynamics.

In 1996, General Motors' EV1 emerged as the first modern-day all-electric vehicle, boasting a modest range of 74 miles – adequate for city driving but limiting for longer trips, especially with public charging stations scarce. For the next 15 years, this narrative was slow to change.

Fast forward to today: The Lucid Air boasts an estimated range of 516 miles, more than the average gasoline-powered car can travel on a single tank. In 2022, the average range of an electric car sold in the U.S. reached 291 miles. By May 2023, more than 138,100 public charging outlets were available nationwide. Despite a concentration of these stations in California, the trend is evident: EVs now offer unprecedented range, complemented by an ever-growing network of charging stations.

Yet, the specter of "range anxiety" lingers. Why?

The answer lies not in statistics or technology but in human behavior. A recent study of new EV registrations in 11 U.S. markets revealed a "cluster effect" in EV adoption. Prospective buyers are often influenced by EV owners within their social circles ― neighbors, family, or colleagues. This phenomenon, sometimes known as peer pressure, social contagion, or the “neighborhood effect,” underscores a simple truth: seeing is believing. In other words, the best predictor of a person driving an EV is someone in their inner circle driving one first. (As an EV driver, my own experience resonates with this finding. Three of my friends switched to EVs after hearing about how much my family was enjoying ours, and how much we were saving.)

The report cited two key factors of peer influence in helping new EV drivers overcome possible sources of anxiety, like range limitations. The first factor ― interpersonal communication and persuasion ― includes observation of specific choices (i.e., a new Tesla in the neighbor’s driveway), word-of-mouth communication, and the influence of trusted community leaders. The second ― normative social influence ― holds that social norms are passively communicated as shared standards of behavior within a group. Even without talking to the neighbor, the sight of their new Tesla suggests that driving one allows you to “fit in” too.

If peer influence helps convince EV buyers that range is no obstacle, charging stations are doing their part to influence cluster buying as well. California had more than 14,000 of the nation’s 51,000 public charging stations as of March and also the highest number of registered EVs. Consumer Reports reported in June that “charging logistics” was the number-1 reason holding back potential EV buyers. It only makes sense that the threat of a broken EV charger or a long stretch of road without one is lessened where more chargers are available. The number of public charging stations has increased by 40 percent since Jan. 2021, and figures to rise further as public- and private-sector investment dollars flow into public charging.

More than the availability of public charging stations, the ability to charge one’s EV at home overnight is a practical antidote to range anxiety. Charging overnight can add 40 to 50 miles of range, enough for an average driver on an average day. A 2022 survey by J.D. Power indicated 27 percent of homeowners are "very likely to consider” buying an EV, compared to 17 percent of those who rent. “Not only are homeowners more affluent, on average,” the report notes, “but are more likely to be able to charge an EV at their residence.”

Here too, the cluster effect makes sense. In areas where renters are concentrated (think apartment complexes), all it takes is one EV driver to inform their neighbors where the nearest charging stations are, eliminating a logistical barrier to range anxiety. In areas where homeowners are concentrated (think new-construction suburban communities of family homes), all it takes is one EV driver to demonstrate the utility of overnight charging in a standard garage or driveway outlet.

Advancements in charging technology also play a critical role. The advent of affordable Level 2 chargers and ultra-fast Level 3 chargers, like Electrify America's 20 miles-per-minute chargers, further eases range concerns.

The availability and affordability of charging technology might be the best weapons in the fight against range anxiety, but they are of little use without a first-hand introduction on the part of someone in your social circle. The key to accelerating EV adoption lies in nurturing these social “clusters,” fostering a network of influence that propels us towards an electrified, sustainable future. In this journey, our greatest allies are the conversations in our living rooms, the examples in our driveways, and the shared experiences within our communities. As these clusters expand, they forge a path toward a cleaner, more environmentally conscious world.

———

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 why more and more companies — across industries — are making the switch to sustainable technology. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert on why companies are investing in sustainable energy technology

guest column

In a modern business landscape characterized by increasing uncertainty and volatility, energy resilience has emerged as a cornerstone of strategic decision-making.

Let's delve deeper into why executives should view energy resilience as one of the best risk management investments they can make.

Mitigating risks and enhancing stability

Investing in energy resilience isn't solely about averting risks; it's about mitigating the potential losses that could arise from energy-related disruptions. It is estimated that half of today’s businesses lack an effective resilience strategy, even though nearly 97 percent of companies have been impacted by a critical risk event.

Whether it's power outages from extreme weather events, grid emergencies from a changing resource mix that is more weather dependent or cyber-attacks, disruptions can inflict substantial financial and reputational damage on businesses. By implementing resilient energy infrastructure and practices, organizations can minimize the impact of such disruptions, ensuring consistent operations even in the face of adversity. As an added benefit, these investments can also contribute to enhancing the stability of our grid infrastructure, benefiting not just individual businesses but the local community and the entire economy.

Improving costs and operational efficiency

Energy resilience also isn't just a defensive strategy; it's also about optimizing costs and operational efficiency to create competitive advantage. By investing in resilient energy infrastructure, such as backup power systems and microgrids, businesses can reduce the downtime associated with energy disruptions, thus avoiding revenue losses and operational inefficiencies.

Additionally, resilient energy solutions often lead to long-term cost savings through increased energy efficiency and reduced reliance on costly backup systems. As circumstances become increasingly uncertain, businesses that prioritize energy resilience can gain a competitive edge by operating more efficiently and cost-effectively than their counterparts.

Ensuring consistent operations amidst uncertainty

In today's rapidly changing business environment, characterized by geopolitical tensions, climate change, and technological advancements, uncertainty has become the new normal. Amidst this uncertainty, ensuring consistent operations is paramount for business continuity and long-term success. Investing in energy resilience provides businesses with the assurance that they can maintain operations even in the face of unforeseen challenges.

Whether it's a sudden power outage from a storm or the grid is stressed and unable to deliver reliable power, resilient energy infrastructure enables organizations to adapt swiftly and continue delivering products and services to customers without interruption.

Enhancing sustainability efforts

In recent years, a growing emphasis on sustainability and environmental stewardship has led to organizations recognizing the importance of reducing their carbon footprint and transitioning towards cleaner, renewable energy sources. Investing in energy resilience provides an opportunity to align sustainability efforts with business objectives.

By integrating renewable energy technologies and energy-efficient practices into their resilience strategies, organizations can not only enhance their environmental performance but also achieve long-term cost savings, ensure regulatory compliance, and build stakeholder trust.

The value of energy resilience for businesses

It is not enough to successfully handle day-to-day operations anymore; organizations need to be prepared for unpredictable events with a reliable energy supply and backup plan. Recently, a hospital in Texas had to evacuate patients and experienced heavy financial losses due to the failure of their traditional diesel generators during an extended outage.

After reevaluating their resiliency strategy, they decided to implement full-facility backup power using Enchanted Rock’s dual-purpose managed microgrid solution, which kept their power on during the next outage and ensured both patient safety and full operational capabilities. Investing in an energy resilience strategy like a microgrid will mitigate these risks and ensure always-on power in times of uncertainty.

A responsible decision for the greater good

Beyond the immediate benefits to individual businesses, investing in energy resilience is also a responsible decision for the greater good. As businesses become increasingly reliant on the grid infrastructure, ensuring its resilience is essential for the stability and reliability of the entire energy ecosystem. By proactively investing in resilient energy solutions, for themselves, businesses also contribute to strengthening the grid infrastructure, reducing the risk of widespread outages, and promoting the overall resilience of the energy system.

Executives must recognize the strategic imperative of investing in resilient energy infrastructure like microgrid systems, which can provide a competitive advantage against organizations that do not have similar measures in place. In doing so, they can navigate uncertainty with confidence, set their business up for future success, and emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before.

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Ken Cowan is the senior vice president of Enchanted Rock, a Houston-based provider of microgrid technology.

This Earth Week, let's consider the benefits of home charging for electric vehicles. Photo via Getty Images

Expert: 5 ways residential charging enhances the environmental benefits of EVs

guest column

Electric vehicles are already considered as an environmentally conscientious alternative to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, thanks to their zero tailpipe emissions. However, the environmental benefits of EVs can be further enhanced by implementing a home-base charging routine.

This is important not only for individuals looking to cut their household’s carbon footprint, but also for corporations that operate EV fleets and are looking for additional cost and environmental savings as part of their larger sustainability initiatives. What makes home charging the most eco-conscious option?

1. Increased use of renewable energy

More than 4 million homes in the United States support rooftop solar panels that provide renewable energy back to the property or back to the local grid. When EV owners install solar panels or other renewable energy systems at their homes, they can charge their vehicles using this clean energy, effectively reducing the carbon footprint associated with their EV use to nearly zero. This direct use of renewables circumvents the inefficiencies and emissions associated with the broader energy grid which, depending on the location, may still rely on fossil fuels to a significant extent. This synergy between EVs and clean local energy production is exemplified by Tesla’s solar roof program, which promotes the adoption of clean home-based energy production as part of the holistic EV ownership experience offered through their app.

2. Optimizing charging times for lower emissions

Home charging allows for more flexible and strategic charging schedules. EV owners can often take advantage of off-peak electricity rates and lower carbon intensity periods by charging their vehicles overnight or when renewable energy production (such as wind or solar power) is at its peak. This not only leads to cost savings for the consumer, but also contributes to a balanced demand on the electric grid, reducing the need for high-carbon emergency power sources that are sometimes activated during peak demand times. Apps like WhenToPlugIn use a carbon intensity forecasting tool to help consumers pick the best times to charge.

3. Reducing dependency on public charging infrastructure

Public charging stations are crucial for long-distance EV travel. For everyday use, the current public charging landscape is trailing the demand curve. The good news is that the majority of EV drivers can rely almost solely on home charging. This practice ensures public charging spots remain open for those who, due to circumstances such as residing in multi-unit dwellings without charging facilities, cannot charge at home. Consequently, this accessibility supports wider adoption of EVs, leading to a more substantial reduction in overall emissions.

4. Avoiding unnecessary travel to public charging stations

The average driver has to detour 2 miles to refill their gas tank. For electric vehicles, finding an available public charger can add many more miles to a trip. Home charging ensures that EVs can start each day with a “full tank” — which, with new EVs, means hundreds of miles of range before needing to plug in again. This reduction in driven miles not only saves time but also decreases the energy consumption and emissions associated with traveling to and from charging stations unnecessarily. By charging at home, EV owners can ensure their vehicles are ready to go without extra trips, further cutting down on the vehicle's overall environmental impact.

5. Enhancing battery longevity

Charging at home typically involves slower charging speeds compared to rapid chargers found in public stations. These slower, more controlled charging rates are less taxing on an EV's battery, contributing to longer battery life and better overall efficiency. Longer battery lifespans mean fewer replacements over the vehicle's life, significantly reducing the environmental impact associated with battery production and disposal. This not only has clear environmental benefits but also economic ones for the vehicle owner.

Conclusion

The environmental benefits of electric vehicles are well-documented, but by incorporating home charging, these benefits are amplified significantly. Through the increased use of renewable energy, optimizing charging times to utilize green power, and reducing reliance on public charging infrastructure, EV owners can further reduce their environmental footprint. As technology advances and the energy grid becomes cleaner, the potential for home charging to contribute to a more sustainable future only grows, reinforcing the role of electric vehicles in the transition to greener transportation options.

———

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.

By understanding the barriers they encounter, leaders, managers, and recruiters can implement targeted strategies to create more inclusive and diverse work environments. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert analyzes women's role, challenges in the energy industry

guest column

The Women in Energy Global Study is an annual guide that delivers insights on how to retain female talent in a challenging world. It’s a critical roadmap for business leaders, managers, recruiters, and diversity and inclusion professionals to what women want, need, and can offer in the global energy workplace.

The report dives into the data to reveal the nature and aspirations of the female energy workforce. It explores the kids of jobs women are doing and the level of seniority that they are reaching, the career issues they face, what motivates them to contribute their skills to the energy transition and what they need to truly thrive.

The energy transition was a strong thread running through this year’s global survey with a commitment to Net Zero being the stand-out factor that attracts women to a company. Respondents came from an even greater variety of sectors and roles both within and outside the energy industry, reflecting the growing richness and complexity of energy today and the exciting new opportunities it offers.

This year's results showed that oil and gas is the largest employer of women, followed by renewables, and most respondents have reached middle-management level in their career. However, there are still more women than men at the bottom and more men at the top. Women are more likely to be in project management, while men are more likely to be in engineering, and only 6 percent of field services roles are held by women.

Work-life interface and flexibility

Employers appear to be rolling back some of the flexible working policies introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic yet offering options for where and when work is an important value proposition for any company wanting to attract and retain talent.

The good news is that most men and women feel they now have a good work life balance, a positive shift from last year when most said they didn't. Women said that better flexible working would make the most difference to work-life balance.

Attracting and developing diverse talent and helping women thrive

Companies’ commitment to DEI appears to be declining, a reversal in trend from previous years. If this is more than just lack of visibility of what has become "business as usual," then organizations need to remember that better DEI leads to better business performance and it is critical to communicate efforts in this area.

Key things women want from their employer are better professional development, sponsorship and mentoring, flexible working and the opportunity for job-share or part-time working, but there appears to be delivery gap between availability of policies and their uptake.

The demand for good paternity leave is huge among men – more than half said they wanted to see it introduced or improved – and this could be a gamechanger for both sexes. Additionally, a strong commitment to net zero still makes a company more attractive to both women and men. Other key factors for women when choosing their employer are an inclusive workplace culture, benefits and a commitment to DEI.

Time to pave the way

When we amplify the voices of women in the global energy market, we not only bring attention to the challenges they face but also highlight the vast potential they hold. By understanding the barriers they encounter, leaders, managers, and recruiters can implement targeted strategies to create more inclusive and diverse work environments. This not only benefits women in the industry but also fosters innovation and drives growth in our ever-evolving energy sector. As we pave the way for more opportunities and empowerment for women in energy, we are shaping a brighter and more sustainable future for all.

———

Jayne Stewart is vice president of oil, gas and chemicals across the Gulf Coast region in the U.S. for NES Fircroft. She is based in Houston.

Recruiting in the energy sector may be challenging, but the right candidates are out there. Photo via Getty Images

How you should be approaching energy recruiting in 2024, per Houston expert

guest column

The January jobs report, per BLS, may be cause for celebration with 353,000 new jobs, but with a low unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, the tight labor market persists.

The same report states there were 2,000 more jobs in oil and gas extraction in January. Finding the right people for energy jobs can be a challenge right now as the industry has experienced flux the past few years. Many energy employers find key talent has moved into new industry verticals, drawn by the promise of increased stability.

Recruiting in the energy sector may be challenging, but the right candidates are out there. It is important for hiring managers to be realistic as they approach recruiting and hiring timeframes and make smart hiring decisions. The organization will be better off in the long run for this approach.

The following recruiting strategies are poised to support energy employers throughout the year.

Get personal.

Job candidates want to feel like their future employer is genuinely interested in them, which means recruiters should personalize the candidate’s experience. This starts by taking a holistic look at the hiring funnel and considering ways to make each candidate feel as though they are the only one you are talking to for the role.

Each touchpoint impacts how the candidate perceives the organization. The job description should inspire candidates, making them excited to apply and motivating them to dream about a future with your organization. Personalizing recruitment outreach messages to speak to their individual talents instead of a standard, generic message speaks volumes.

Moving through the hiring process as quickly as possible is important, but recruiting is about the long game. There are candidates who fall into place in a matter of days. Other times, you may have a conversation with a candidate months or even years before the timing is right for them to make a move. Asking about the candidate’s professional timeline and letting them know that you are willing to work with them, no matter how fast or slow, makes them feel special and valued by your company.

Be ready to compromise.

It has become hard to find the right fit for some of the energy jobs today. However, this does present an opportune moment for employers to reassess the conventional prerequisites typically required for specific positions. Criteria such as an exact college degree, a specified number of years of relevant experience, industry-specific expertise, an unbroken work history and proficiency in specific software applications are areas to reconsider in the job postings, job descriptions and interviews. This strategic adjustment broadens the talent pool and provides access to individuals whose suitability for a role might have been overlooked. Shifting away from stringent education backgrounds and narrowly defined experience, and instead prioritizing qualities such as adaptability and learning capabilities in the search for candidates, recruiters may discover a smoother path to securing qualified candidates.

Grow internal talent.

Recruitment today also means recruiting internally. The optimal approach to efficiently filling positions is promoting the role internally as existing employees have a vested interest and are deeply ingrained in the company’s culture. Their familiarity with colleagues, procedures and protocols facilitates a swift transition into new roles. In order for this to become a possibility, it’s imperative for leaders to nurture internal talent through professional development initiatives that equip employees with the skills needed for advancement. Tailored learning opportunities, mentorship and guidance for reskilling and upskilling can foster internal mobility, enhance employee retention and ensure sustained success. With all this in mind, recruiters should keep in close contact with management teams to discuss internal candidates and their career path.

There is no one way to recruit in 2024, but focusing on the individual and their skills as well as in-house candidates can make it a successful endeavor.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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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.”

Houston lands on the wrong end of national pollution report

big yikes

Houston just made a list that no one wants it to be on.

Data compiled by the National Public Utilities Council ranks Houston as the 15th most polluted city in the U.S. No other Texas city appears in the ranking. Three California cities — Bakersfield, Visalia, and Fresno — took the top three spots.

The ranking considers a city’s average volume of fine particulate matter in the air per year. Fine particulate matter (formally known as PM2.5) includes soot, soil dust, and sulphates.

The council based its ranking on the average annual concentration of PM2.5 as measured in micrograms per cubic meter of air, known as µg/m3. The ranking lists Houston’s average annual µg/m3 as 11.4. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a top µg/m3 of 5, while the American Lung Association sets 9 µg/m as an average annual guideline.

A report released in 2024 by Smart Survey found that the Houston area had just 38 days of good air quality the previous year.

“Most of Houston’s air pollution comes from industrial sources and diesel engines, although sources as diverse as school buses and meat cooking also contribute to … the problem,” the nonprofit Air Alliance Houston says.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says PM2.5 poses “the greatest risk to health” of any particulate matter. Among other health issues, fine particulate matter contributes to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic pulmonary disease.

Among the sources of PM2.5 are wildfires, wood-burning stoves, and coal-fired plants, according to the American Lung Association.

The WHO says air pollution causes 7 million deaths annually and may cost the global economy $18 trillion to 25 trillion by 2060. With 70 percent of the population expected to live in urban centers by mid-century, cities are at the forefront of efforts to reduce pollution, according to National Public Utilities Council.

Energy transition events roundup, 3 Houston cos. make it to global competition finals, and more things to know

take note

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a really big deal from last week, three startups make it to the finals of an Elon Musk-backed competition, and five events not to miss.

Companies to watch: 

Twenty promising climatetech companies were selected to advance to the final stage of a global competition backed by Elon Musk's foundation — and three of the finalists hail from Houston.

Vaulted Deep, Mati Carbon, and Climate Robotics secured finalists spots in XPRIZE's four-year global competition is designed to combat climate change with innovative solutions. XPRIZE Carbon Removal will offer $100 million to innovators who are creating solutions that removes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or the oceans, and then sequester it sustainably.

The finalists — categorized into four sections: air, rocks, oceans, and land — were selected based upon their performance in three key areas: operations, sustainability, and cost. Click here to read more.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • 2nd Annual Geothermal Transition Summit for North America will take place May 21 and 22 at The Hilton Greenway Plaza. Engage in discussions on early-project development, industry policies, the synergy with the oil and gas industry, methods to enhance commerciality, and explore case studies from ground-breaking projects.Register now.
  • The Energy Drone & Robotics Summit is coming to Houston June 10 to 12. Join for the ultimate event in the world for UAVs, Robotics & Data/AI, 3D Reality Capture, Geospatial and Digital Twins focused on the business and technology in energy & industrial operations, inspections, maintenance, surveying & mapping. Register now.
  • Argus Clean Ammonia North America Conference will take place on June 12 to 14 at the Hyatt Regency Houston. Over the three days of the conference, explore the big questions many producers are facing around where demand is coming from, expect to hear perspectives from key domestic consumers as well as international demand centres for clean ammonia. Register now.
  • Join the over 150 senior energy and utilities leaders from June 17 to 18 in Houston for AI in Energy to unlock the potential of AI within your enterprise and delve into key areas for its development.Register now.
  • Energy Underground (June) is a group of professionals in the Greater Houston area that are accelerating the Energy Transition that connect monthly at The Cannon - West Houston. Register now.

Big deal: Equinor bets on lithium

Equinor, which has its U.S. headquarters in Houston, has entered into a deal to take a 45-percent share in two lithium project companies in Southwest Arkansas and East Texas. The agreement is with Vancouver, Canada-based Standard Lithium Ltd. to make the acquisition. Standard Lithium retaining operatorship, while Equinor will support through its core competencies, like subsurface and project execution capabilities.

Standard Lithium retains the other 55 percent of the projects. Per the deal, will pay $30 million in past costs net to the acquired interest. The company also agreed to carry Standard Lithium's capex of $33 million "to progress the assets towards a possible final investment decision," per the release. Additionally, Equinor will make milestone payments of up to $70 million in aggregate to Standard Lithium should a final investment decision be taken. Click here to read more.