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Amazon rolls out hundreds of new electric vans for Houston's holiday delivery season

Electric avenue

Amazon CEO/occasional space traveler Jeff Bezos is doing his best to supplant a certain jolly fellow from the North Pole as tops for holiday gift delivery.

His latest move: Amazon is rolling out more than 1,000 electric delivery vehicles, designed by electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian, ready to make deliveries in more than 100 cities across the U.S. On the Texas good list: Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Bezos' juggernaut began deliveries in Dallas in July, along with Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, and St. Louis.

These zero-emissions vans have delivered more than 5 million packages to customers in the U.S., according to Amazon. The latest boost in vehicles now includes Houston and Austin; Boston; Denver; Indianapolis; Las Vegas; Madison, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; New York, Oakland, California; Pittsburgh, Portland, Oregon; Provo, Utah; and Salt Lake City.

Plans for the Amazon and Rivian partnership call for thousands of vehicles on the road by the end of the year and 100,000 vehicles by 2030.

“We’re always excited for the holiday season, but making deliveries to customers across the country with our new zero-emission vehicles for the first time makes this year unique,” said Udit Madan, vice president of Amazon Transportation, in a statement. “We’ve already delivered over 5 million packages with our vehicles produced by Rivian, and this is still just the beginning—that figure will grow exponentially as we continue to make progress toward our 100,000-vehicle goal.”

This all comes as part of Amazon's commitment to reaching net-zero carbon by 2040, as a part of its The Climate Pledge; Amazon promises to eliminate millions of metric tons of carbon per year with it s commitment to 100,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2030, press materials note.

Additionally, Amazon announced plans to invest more than $1 billion over the next five years to further electrify and decarbonize its transportation network across Europe. This investment is meant to spark innovation and encourage more public charging infrastructure across the continent.

“Fleet electrification is essential to reaching the world’s zero-emissions goal,” said Jiten Behl, chief growth officer at Rivian, in a statement. “So, to see our ramp up in production supporting Amazon’s rollout in cities across the country is amazing. Not just for the environment, but also for our teams working hard to get tens of thousands of electric delivery vehicles on the road. They continue to be motivated by our combined mission and the great feedback about the vehicle’s performance and quality.”

A little about the vans: Drivers’ favorite features include a spacious cabin and cargo area, superior visibility with a large windshield and 360-degree cameras, and ventilated seats for fast heating and cooling — a must for Bayou City summers ... or winters, for that matter.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston low-carbon fuel company scores United investment, plans to IPO via spac

big moves

It’s been a momentous month for Houston-based NEXT Renewable Fuels Inc.

On November 15, United Airlines Ventures announced an investment of up to $37.5 million in the next-generation, low-carbon fuel producing company.

Just a week later, the company revealed it’s going public through a SPAC merger with Industrial Tech Acquisitions II Inc. The deal, expected to close in the second quarter of 2023, assigns a $666 million equity value to NEXT. The publicly traded company will be named NXTCLEAN Fuels Inc.

NEXT, founded in 2016, produces low-carbon fuels from organic feedstock. The company plans to open a biofuel refinery in Port Westward, Oregon, that’s set to start production in 2026. The refinery could produce up to 50,000 barrels per day of sustainable aviation fuel, renewable diesel, and other renewable fuels.

“West Coast states are demanding a clean fuels conversion of the transportation and aviation industries with aggressive targets necessitating rapid increases in clean fuel supplies,” Christopher Efird, executive chairman and CEO of NEXT, says in a news release. “[The company] is advancing toward becoming one of the largest U.S.-based suppliers of clean fuels for these markets, and is investigating and pursuing potential vertical expansion into other clean fuels.”

The proposed public listing of NEXT’s stock on the Nasdaq market and United’s investment are poised to help NEXT reach its goal of becoming a leader in the clean fuel sector. United’s investment appears to be the first equity funding for NEXT.

“Right now, one of the biggest barriers to increasing supply and lowering costs of sustainable fuel is that we don’t have the infrastructure in place to transport it efficiently, but NEXT’s strategic location and assets solve that problem and provide a blueprint for future facilities that need to be built,” Michael Leskinen, president of United Airline Ventures, says in a news release.

United’s investment arm, launched in 2021, targets ventures that will complement the airline’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

SXSW announces first keynote and more featured speakers for 2023 festival

on the agenda

For Texans — especially Austinites — if there's one major milestone that truly puts the pandemic behind us, it's the in-person return of SXSW. We got a taste of it this year with the hybrid online/in-person format, but 2023 will likely be the first festival that truly feels like a "return to normal." And the newly released lineup is definitely something to look forward to.

On Tuesday, November 15, SXSW announced the first keynote for the 37th festival, taking place March 10-19, 2023. The 2023 conference will include a keynote address from Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert.

Also announced were featured speakers, including New York Times bestselling author David Chang; New York Magazine editor-at-large and podcast host Kara Swisher; and Grammy Award-nominated singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalistValerie June.

“At SXSW, we thrive on creative ideas that lead to bold action when it comes to addressing society’s biggest challenges,” said SXSW's chief programming officer, Hugh Forrest. “Our first announced keynote speaker, Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert, is a true leader in the world of business who is unafraid of pursuing the systemic reform needed to protect our planet in the face of climate change.”

Organized into 25 programming tracks presented in a variety of session formats, SXSW celebrates the convergence of technology, film, television, and music. Tracks include civic engagement, climate change, design, film and TV, psychedelics, sports, travel, and more.

Other newly announced speakers joining the 2023 lineup are:

  • Chemistry professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Kate Biberdorf
  • Founder of Royal and DJ, Justin Blau, aka 3LAU
  • Gonzo journalist and creator of Channel 5, Andrew Callaghan
  • Professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and author, Dolly Chugh
  • Director and screenwriter, Julia Ducournau
  • Emmy and Tony Award-winning producer, co-founder and managing partner of Get Lifted Film Co., and fellow and professional-in-residence at the University of Texas’ Moody College of Communication, Mike Jackson
  • CEO of Luminate, Rob Jonas
  • Founder and CEO of KORA Organics, entrepreneur, and supermodel, Miranda Kerr
  • Actor, director, writer, comedian, and musician, Cheech Marin
  • New York Times bestselling author, Heather McGhee
  • Psychotherapist, New York Times bestselling author, and podcast host, Esther Perel
  • Author and former chairman, president, and CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty
  • Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, Boyan Slat
  • Mycologist, entrepreneur, author, and inventor, Paul Stamets
  • Associate professor of environmental politics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Leah Stokes
  • Founder and CEO of Strangeworks, whurley
  • Co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki

This announcement comes on the heels of SXSW and Rolling Stone magazine announcing an inaugural emerging artists showcase taking place during the music portion of the festival in March 2023. For a full lineup and more information on featured sessions, visit SXSW.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.