revving up for growth

Houston EV charging station startup gets ready to roll out services across the country

In the coming weeks, REVS plans to set up EV charging stations at properties in Texas and California. Photo courtesy of REVS

A Houston startup is revving up the region's — and the country's — supply of charging stations for electric vehicles.

The company, Refuel Electric Vehicle Solutions (REVS), recently installed its first two charging stations. They're at two properties in Houston: the Briar Forest Lofts apartment complex, located in the Energy Corridor, and Lakeview RV Resort, located at North Holmes and Hiram Clarke roads.

REVS plans to roll out its offering — consulting, installation, and management services for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations — to multifamily and commercial real estate properties across the U.S. Those properties include apartment complexes, office buildings, hotels, and shopping centers.

In the coming weeks, REVS plans to set up EV charging stations at properties in Texas and California.

Customers of REVS can take advantage of revenue-sharing and marketing arrangements, as well as green or carbon credits.

Commercial real estate veteran David Aaronson, president and CEO of REVS, and son Mike Aaronson, head of operations, founded the company to address what they say is a growing need for EV charging stations in the commercial real estate and sustainability sectors.

Miami Beach, Florida-based Blink Charging Co. makes the EV charging stations installed by REVS. Blink, which is publicly traded, recently raised $232 million in equity to fuel its growth.

As EVs "become more prevalent, it is imperative that commercial real estate and multifamily owners and operators realize that their assets will provide the future infrastructure for charging these vehicles," David Aaronson says in a news release.

One forecast predicts the global market for EV charging stations will surpass $248.2 billion by 2030. Another report anticipates the number of EV charging stations around the world will grow from more than 2.1 million in 2020 to nearly 30.8 million by 2027.

In the U.S., the number of EVs is poised to take off. A study by The Brattle Group, a consulting firm in Boston, forecasts the number of EVs in this country will jump from 1.5 million in 2020 to between 10 million and 35 million by 2030.

The study goes on to say that an infrastructure investment of $75 billion to $125 billion would be required to accommodate 20 million EVs on U.S. roads by 2030. Those dollar figures include the addition of 1 million to 2 million EV charging stations.

In North America, an estimated 80 percent of EV charging happens at home, but experts expect the share of charging done at office buildings and other places to increase.

"When it comes to electric vehicles, commercial real estate owners and operators face one fundamental question: Do they wait for a tidal wave of EVs on the road to add charging stations to new and existing buildings, or get ahead of that tsunami?" Commercial Real Estate Executive observed last year. "The answer increasingly is if they dawdle, they run the risk of finding themselves behind the times."

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Building Houston

 
 

From a low-cost vaccine to an app that can help reduce exposure, here are the latest COVID-focused and Houston-based research projects. Photo via Getty Images

While it might seem like the COVID-19 pandemic has settled down for the time being, there's plenty of innovative research ongoing to create solutions for affordable vaccines and tech-enabled protection against the spread of the virus.

Some of that research is happening right here in Houston. Here are two innovative projects in the works at local institutions.

UH researcher designs app to monitor best times to shop

A UH professor is putting safe shopping at your fingertips. Photo via UH.edu

When is the best time to run an errand in the pandemic era we currently reside? There might be an app for that. Albert Cheng, professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, is working on a real-time COVID-19 infection risk assessment and mitigation system. He presented his plans at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference HPC for Urgent Decision Making and will publish the work in IEEE Xplore.

Cheng's work analyzes up-to-date data from multiple open sources to see when is the best time to avoid crowds and accomplish activities outside the home.

"Preliminary work has been performed to determine the usability of a number of COVID-19 data websites and other websites such as grocery stores and restaurants' popular times and traffic," Cheng says in a UH release. "Other data, such as vaccination rates and cultural factors (for example, the percentage of people willing to wear facial coverings or masks in an area), are also used to determine the best grocery store to shop in within a time frame."

To use the app, a user would input their intended destinations and the farthest distance willing to go, as well as the time frame of the trip. The risk assessment and mitigation system, or RT-CIRAM, then "provides as output the target location and the time interval to reach there that would reduce the chance of infections," said Cheng.

There's a lot to it, says Cheng, and the process is highly reliant on technology.

"We are leveraging urgent high-performance cloud computing, coupled with time-critical scheduling and routing techniques, along with our expertise in real-time embedded systems and cyber-physical systems, machine learning, medical devices, real-time knowledge/rule-based decision systems, formal verification, functional reactive systems, virtualization and intrusion detection," says Cheng.

2 Houston hospitals team up with immunotherapy company for new vaccine for Africa

The new vaccine will hopefully help mitigate spread of the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. Photo via bcm.edu

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have teamed up with ImmunityBio Inc. — a clinical-stage immunotherapy company — under a licensing agreement to develop a safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccine.

BCM has licensed out a recombinant protein COVID-19 vaccine candidate that was developed at the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development to ImmunityBio. According to the release, the company engaged in license negotiations with the BCM Ventures team, about the vaccine that could address the current pandemic needs in South Africa.

"We hope that our COVID-19 vaccine for global health might become an important step towards advancing vaccine development capacity in South Africa, and ultimately for all of Sub-Saharan Africa," says Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

ImmunityBio, which was founded in 2014 by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, is working on innovative immunotherapies that address serious unmet needs in infectious diseases, according to a news release from BCM.

"There is a great need for second-generation vaccines, which are accessible, durable and offer broad protection against the emerging variants," says Soon-Shiong. "ImmunityBio has executed on a heterologous ("mix-and-match") strategy to develop a universal COVID-19 vaccine. To accomplish this, we have embarked upon large-scale good manufacturing practices and development of DNA (adenovirus), RNA (self-amplifying mRNA) and subunit protein (yeast) vaccine platforms. This comprehensive approach will leverage our expertise in these platforms for both infectious disease and cancer therapies."

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