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

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

Guest column: Cold weather and electric vehicles — separating fact from fiction

EVs in winter

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.

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Equinor makes big investment into lithium projects in Arkansas, East Texas

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A Norwegian international energy company has entered into a deal to take a 45-percent share in two lithium project companies in Southwest Arkansas and East Texas.

Equinor, which has its U.S. headquarters in Houston, has reached an agreement 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.

“Sustainably produced lithium can be an enabler in the energy transition, and we believe it can become an attractive business. This investment is an option with limited upfront financial commitment. We can utilise core technologies from oil and gas in a complementary partnership to mature these projects towards a possible final investment decision,” says Morten Halleraker, senior vice president for New Business and Investments in Technology, Digital and Innovation at Equinor, in a news release.

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.

Lithium is regarded as important to the energy transition due to its use in battery storage, including in electric vehicles. Direct Lithium Extraction, or DLE, produces the mineral from subsurface reservoirs. New technologies have the potential to improve this production method while lowering the environmental footprint.

Earlier this month, Houston-based International Battery Metals, whose technology offers an eco-friendly way to extract lithium compounds from brine, announced that it's installing what it’s billing as the world’s first commercial modular direct-lithium extraction plant located at US Magnesium’s operations outside Salt Lake City. The plant is expected to go online later this year.

Texas joins in on lawsuit over rules on gas-powered trucks in California

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A large group of Republican attorneys general on Monday took legal action against the Biden administration and California over new emissions limits for trucks.

Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers is leading the group of GOP attorneys general who filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn an Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting truck emissions.

Texas joined Nebraska's latest action against the EPA, along with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and several others.

A separate lawsuit against California claims a phased-in ban on internal-combustion trucks is unconstitutional and will hurt the U.S. economy.

Hilgers in a statement said the EPA and California rules “will devastate the trucking and logistics industry, raise prices for customers, and impact untold number of jobs across Nebraska and the country.”

“There’s not one trucking charging station in the state of Nebraska,” Hilgers later told reporters. “Trying to take that industry, which was built up over decades with diesel and fossil fuels-based infrastructure, and transforming it to an electric-based infrastructure – it’s probably not feasible.”

EPA officials have said the strict emissions standards will help clean up some of the nation’s largest sources of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

The new EPA rules are slated to take effect for model years 2027 through 2032, and the agency has said they will avoid up to 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades.

Emissions restrictions could especially benefit an estimated 72 million people in the U.S. who live near freight routes used by trucks and other heavy vehicles and bear a disproportionate burden of dangerous air pollution, the agency has said.

A spokesperson for the EPA declined to comment on the legal challenge to the new rules Monday, citing the pending litigation.

California rules being challenged by Republican attorneys general would ban big rigs and buses that run on diesel from being sold in California starting in 2036.

An email seeking comment from California’s Air Resources Board was not immediately answered Monday.

California has been aggressive in trying to rid itself of fossil fuels, passing new rules in recent years to phase out gas-powered cars, trucks, trains and lawn equipment in the nation’s most populous state. Industries, and Republican leaders in other states, are pushing back.

Another band of GOP-led states in 2022 challenged California’s authority to set emissions standards that are stricter than rules set by the federal government. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last month ruled that the states failed to prove how California’s emissions standards would drive up costs for gas-powered vehicles in their states.

ExxonMobil adds energy transition leader, investor to board

all aboard

An energy transition expert and investor has joined Houston-headquartered ExxonMobil Corp.’s board of directors.

Maria Jelescu Dreyfus is CEO and founder of Ardinall Investment Management, which is an investment firm that works in “sustainable investing and resilient infrastructure.”

She previously spent 15 years at Goldman Sachs as a portfolio manager and managing director in the Goldman Sachs Investment Partners Group that focused on energy, industrials, transportation and infrastructure investments across the capital structure.

She currently serves as a director on the board of Cadiz Inc. and on the board of CDPQ. She also works in the energy transition space as a director on several companies' boards.

“We welcome Maria to the ExxonMobil Board as the company executes its strategy to grow shareholder value by playing a critical role in a lower-emissions future, even as we continue to provide the reliable energy and products the world needs,” Joseph Hooley, lead independent director for Exxon Mobil Corporation, says in a news release. “Her deep financial background combined with her extensive work in sustainability will complement our Board’s existing skill set.”

Dreyfus is the vice chair of the advisory board of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, and serves as co-chair of its Women in Energy program.

“With the close of our Pioneer merger, we gained a premier, tier-one Permian asset, exceptional talent and a new Board member who brings keen strategic insight,” says ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Darren Woods in the release. “Our boardroom, shareholders and stakeholders will greatly benefit from Maria’s experience.”