UPDATE: To answer the question posed in our headline: No, we do not believe Houston has the largest electric-car charging site. See below.
When we think of Texas, we think of many things: open roads, desert landscapes, Beyoncé. And of course, we also think of oil, since Texas is one of the country's largest producers of the stuff.
So it might seem a little strange to learn that Houston, Texas is now home to North America's largest car-charging site. But then, truth is always stranger than fiction.
The site is Houston's Tranquility Park Garage, which has been tricked out with 28 charging stations from GRIDbot, a manufacturer based in Austin. These stations will charge the city's existing Prius plug-in hybrids and its new fleet of fully electric vehicles.
The build-out of the site was made possible by a grant from the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, spearheaded by the Good Company Associates. Beyond setting a U.S. record, Good Company's goal in creating the site was "to evaluate the impacts of electric cars on air quality and the acceptance of this new technology". If all goes well, this could pave the way for more large-scale charging stations in garages across Texas and the U.S.
Electric-car fans have at least two reasons to celebrate this development. For starters, a station of this size is a symbolic foot in the door for electric vehicles. It doesn't mean that sales of the Leaf, Prius, or Volt will skyrocket overnight, but it does mean that more of the general public will be exposed to those sorts of vehicles. And as we've seen on so many fronts -- technological, social, and so on -- the more that people are exposed to something, the more they're likely to embrace it. The fact that the charging station sits deep in the heart of oil country is icing on the cake.
Second, this means that another charge-point manufacturer is ready for its close-up. As charging technology continues to evolve and electric-vehicle adoption rates climb, more companies like GRIDbot will enter the marketplace, meaning that consumers will benefit from competitive pricing on charging stations. That should be exciting news for folks across the electric-car, green, and manufacturing sectors -- and maybe Beyoncé, too.
UPDATE: A savvy reader has pointed out that one site on Google's campus has 33 charging stations. (Visit http://www.mychargepoint.net/find-stations.php, then search for "Charleston Ave, Mountain View CA".) Please insert your own "Houston, we have a problem" joke here.