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.

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

Octopus Energy announced its new program to help make the move to electric vehicle driving easier and more affordable for Texas residents. Photo via Getty Images

Houston renewable energy co. rolls out new EV program

in the driver seat

A Houston-based renewable energy provider has announced a new program to get more electric vehicle drivers on Texas roads.

Octopus Electric Vehicles, a new initiative from Houston-based Octopus Energy Group, announced its DriveFree leasing program to help make the move to electric vehicle driving easier and more affordable for Texas residents.

“DriveFree gives you the freedom to drive without worrying about the cost of filling the tank or unexpected maintenance expenses,” Octopus EV US Co-Lead Nathan Wyeth says in a news release. “With the ‘electric fuel’ for daily driving included, DriveFree is the complete package to make EVs work for Texas drivers looking to lower their driving costs without locking themselves in.”

DriveFree will include the lease of a top-quality pre-owned car with all maintenance covered. Part of this coverage includes unlimited home charging on Octopus Energy’s home energy plan.

According to Octopus Energy Group, Texas drivers will save an average of over $1,000 per year by switching from a gas car to an EV with potential to save even more depending on the previous gas vehicle make and model. Houstonians will be able to select an EV and DriveFree plan at OctopusEV.us, get approved online, and schedule delivery by an Octopus EV Specialist.

The program will cover all maintenance and tires through a mobile mechanic service to a customer’s home or office. Leasing plans range from one to four years with mileage plans up to 25,000 miles/year, and 4 brands to choose from.

In a report by SmartAsset, Texas was No. 41 of states with the most electric vehicle chargers. Last year, 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. DriveFree is now in the mix in helping Texas get more involved in the mix.

“With DriveFree, we wanted to address all the concerns people have about switching to electric vehicles,” Octopus EV US Co-Lead Chris George says in the news release. “For the millions of Houstonians commuting to work, driving electric can be a money saver today. For the first time, the more miles you drive, the more your savings will be!”

Octopus Electric Vehicles is part of the U.K.’s Octopus Energy Group, which first launched Octopus Energy US in Texas in 2020 after its acquisition of Evolve Energy.

Now is the time for your tech company to become a climate company, says this Houston expert. Photo via Getty Images

Houston energy startup CEO calls for tech players to join the climate fight

guest column

In 2022, over 100,000 workers were laid off from major technology companies in an economic slowdown, leaving many people wondering what the future holds. There’s a bright spot, however. These closed doors create an opening for individuals to begin a new career in climate tech, especially as these former tech employees possess skills needed to find and develop novel ways to innovate.

The story of a techie turning to climate isn’t new by any means. For example, Alex Roetter was the former head of engineering at Twitter but later pivoted to climate tech, becoming a managing director and general partner of Moxxie Ventures and the founder of Terraset, a nonprofit focused on funding high-quality carbon removal. Raj Kapoor followed a similar path as he now serves as the co-founder and managing partner of Climactic, a venture capital firm solving climate-related issues using technology, after working as Lyft’s chief strategy officer.

What’s unique now is that the climate tech industry is ready for it – public and private companies have made climate pledges that need industry-disrupting tech solutions, and there is federal, state, and private funding that are backing these solutions up.

When I started out in the energy industry nearly a dozen years ago, there was no such thing as a career in climate tech. Shortly after the 2008 financial crisis, I found a job at a firm backed by smart investors who saw through the noise and realized renewable energy investments are some of the most stable and predictable ways to earn financial returns. Now that Wall Street recognizes investments in climate-related industries as the best way to achieve their long term financial obligations, we’ve seen nearly every company realize they don’t have an economic future unless they also focus on climate results.

We used to say, “every company will become a tech company.” We’re now moving towards a world where “every company is a climate company.” And that is creating opportunities throughout the economy for people to contribute their skills and support their families while building something that actually matters.

Why climate tech is a safe bet

Taking a career twist into climate tech is a safe bet for a few reasons. The first is, unfortunately and obviously, the fact that climate change is getting worse. Between extreme weather events becoming more frequent around the world and the past eight years becoming the hottest on record, there is a huge need for climate mitigation solutions in every sector. What’s more, with the Earth’s population hitting eight billion, we will need to scale technology that addresses challenges like grid instability and food security, as governments try to balance resources. In fact, the Biden-Harris Administration announced $13B of programs to expand the U.S.’s power grid.

To tackle climate change, federal, state, and private sector capital investment in climate tech is at an all time high. As leaders pledge to reach net zero by 2050, investments and commitments to accelerate solutions to decarbonize the planet and make it more sustainable are being prioritized. Last year, there was a whopping $26.8 billion poured into climate tech. In five years, the climate tech market is estimated to near $1.4 trillion and with new energy plans in the Inflation Reduction Act announced earlier this year, investors are heavily influenced in funding the climate tech space.

An easier career shift

A switch to climate tech can be daunting, but it’s not just hard sciences like chemistry and materials engineering. It’s software engineers, social media savvants, and sales specialists. We have employees who have worked at places such as Google and Square come and support us with building our backend tech stack and consumer app. One of our tech leaders is a famous author, having written several books about coding in Django.

We’ve also recently heard about the “great resignation” over the past couple of years, but I think that framing is wrong. I think it's a “great reconsideration”. The reality is, for most of us on a given day, we spend more of our waking hours at work than any other activity. People need purpose — lack of purpose is the biggest reason for burnout. In fact not only have we not been impacted by the “great resignation” that many other firms have been, but we’ve actually received over tens of thousands of applications for our open roles in the past year alone. The career pivot to something meaningful is happening, and it’s happening today.

For example, one of our data engineers graduated from MIT and used to work in Houston as a chemical engineer — after some reskilling, she’s now a data engineer for our Kraken Technologies platform. Another one of our colleagues worked in the traditional marketing space and has transitioned over to climate tech to lead our global marketing. The climate industry needs as many out-of-the-box people as possible to draw new perspectives for reaching climate goals and getting us closer to a clean future.

Not sure where to start? There are several resources dedicated to onboarding people into the climate tech world. Some of my favorite are:

  • Climatebase: this platform is essentially a LinkedIn for climate tech — people can discover climate jobs and learn how they can transition to the space.
  • Climate Change Careers: founded in 2020, this site features job postings, educational opportunities, and information about switching to a climate-focused career.
  • Climate Draft: a member supported coalition comprising climate tech startups and venture capitalists who aim to bring more top talent, investment and commercial opportunities to the table.
  • ClimatEU: a leading resource for climate jobs and employers in Europe consisting of job postings, and opportunities for companies to find additional investment opportunities.
  • Climate People: a platform dedicated to mobilizing a workforce transition towards climate careers.

My inbox is also always open to people interested in joining the energy end of the world — whether it’s to talk about different openings at Octopus Energy, discuss how your expertise transfers to climate tech, or just to say hello.

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Michael Lee is the CEO of London-headquartered Octopus Energy. He is based in the company's US headquarters in Houston. This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Houston's energy industry deemed both a strength and weakness on global cities report

mixed reviews

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

New collaboration to build data center microgrid in Houston

coming soon

Two companies are teaming up to build a natural gas microgrid in Houston that will reduce emissions by 98 percent.

Provider of prime and backup power solutions RPower has teamed up with Houston’s ViVaVerse Solutions to build a 17-megawatt (MW) microgrid at the ViVa Center campus in Houston, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of the year.

The microgrid plans to employ ultra-low emissions and natural gas generators to deliver Resiliency-as-a-Service (RaaS), and this will connect to ViVaVerse's colocation data center operations during utility outages.

RPower will also deploy the microgrid across different ERCOT market programs, which will contribute to assist with essential capacity and ancillary services for the local grid. ERCOT has increased its use of renewable energy in recent years, but still has faced criticism for unstable conditions. The microgrids can potentially assist ERCOT, and also help cut back on emissions.

“RPower's pioneering microgrid will not only deliver essential N+1 resiliency to our data center operations but will also contribute to the local community by supplying necessary capacity during peak demand periods when the electric grid is strained,” Eduardo Morales, CEO of ViVaVerse Solutions and Morales Capital Group, says in a news release.

ViVaVerse Solutions will be converting the former Compaq Computer/HPE headquarters Campus into an innovative technology hub called the ViVa Center, which will host the High-Performance Computing Data Center, and spaces dedicated to mission critical infrastructure and technical facilities . The hub will host 200 data labs.

“We are thrilled to partner with ViVaVerse to deploy this `first of its kind' microgrid solution in the data center space,” Jeff Starcher, CEO of RPower, adds. “Our natural gas backup generation system delivers the same reliability and performance as traditional diesel systems, but with a 98 percent reduction in emissions. Further, the RPower system provides critical grid services and will respond to the volatility of renewable generation, further enabling the energy transition to a carbon free future.”