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Houston Considers Expanding EV Charging Infrastructure

Additional electric vehicles and the charging for them is a component of the city’s Climate Action Plan. The climate plan also includes converting all non-emergency city vehicles to electric power by 2030.

EV charging station
Shutterstock/Matej Kastelic
(TNS) — Houston is looking for a new partner, or partners, to keep its plug-in cars charged and jump-start options for public use.

City officials on Friday released a solicitation for “a community-wide strategy for publicly-accessible electric vehicle support equipment and city-owned fleets.” Many details of the plan to add charging stations on public properties will come from whatever private companies propose, said Lara Cottingham, Houston’s chief sustainability officer.

Proposals are due to the city by Aug. 7, and would outline options for replacing or adding up to 40 stations strictly for the city’s use for its electric vehicle fleet, as well as plans for adding possibly hundreds of electric charging stations on city-owned land. That could include parking lots at parks, libraries and civic buildings, city-owned parking structures and along public rights of way, such as sidewalks and where street parking is allowed.

The company would then be able to charge users for the power they consume. Access to public places could lower those costs, officials said.

“We are looking for partners with innovative solutions to help make electric vehicles more available and affordable for all Houstonians,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement.

Additional electric vehicles and the charging for them is a component of the city’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city. The climate plan includes converting all non-emergency city vehicles to electric power by 2030.

According to a 2019 assessment noted in the request for information released by the city, Houston has between 31 percent and 40 percent of the stations and capacity that analysts expect the city to need by 2025. The city’s contract with Blink, providing charging to the Houston fleet and in some public spots expired last year, and officials are renewing it monthly as they develop a more robust citywide plan. Many of the electric chargers and most of the city’s EV fleet were destroyed in the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Harvey.

Cottingham said the hope is the proposals show a way to close that gap by identifying where charging will be needed and where the city can play a role. While proposals could focus on certain areas of the city, Cottingham said officials want companies to think Houston-wide for ideas.

“We want it to be deployed in an equitable fashion,” she said.

Most charging stations in Texas are installed privately, with electric vehicle owners typically installing home units in their garages. Public charging fills some of that gap, especially as electric vehicle use is predicted to explode in Texas.

While only about 12,000 electric cars and a few trucks are registered in the Houston region today, by 2030 that number is predicted to be at least 100,000 and up to 600,000, driven largely by new car sales, according to EVolve Houston, a non-profit co-founded by the city, CenterPoint Energy, the University of Houston, NRG and Shell.

Multiple companies could be chosen to partner with the city, Cottingham said, if the responses show multiple options are better than a single vendor. Any use of public space would fit into future charging needs but likely not fulfill them as Houston encourages private developers to also incorporate charging stations into parking lots at commercial centers and other spots.

“I don’t think the two would cannibalize each other,” Cottingham said of the public-private charging spaces.

©2020 the Houston Chronicle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.