As much as I admire any initiative in using renewable energy, it must be said that the words solar energy and London have not often been seen in the same sentence.
Perhaps we can expect to see lines of pasty residents of the rainy British capital waiting hours for the solarbox to soak up enough rays to charge their battery.
Solarbox: An ad-driven model
Leaving behind my skepticism over the viability of the scheme, let’s get down to the details.
Six of the 8,000 unused London phone boxes have been painted green and unveiled as charging stations, the first of which is on Tottenham Court Road.
Although the boxes are free to use, they are funded by adverts broadcast to the user as they wait for their device to charge, with Uber and Tinder already signed up as partners. Watching adverts is presumably a small price to pay in exchange for a few minutes shelter from the scorching London sun.
The thinking behind the solarbox
The scheme is the brainchild of Harold Craston and Kirsty Kenny, two geography graduates from the London School of Economics, whose work involved exploring ways to re-purpose public spaces.
Mr Craston told the BBC: “I lived next to a phone box in my second year at uni and walked past it every day. I thought, ‘There are 8,000 of these lying unused in London and we must be able to find a use for them.’”
According to Craston the box is capable of charging up to 100 phones a day, and can give a 20% battery boost within 10 minutes. Smart phone battery life has not increased at the same rate as power draining apps have, and Craston says that the Solarbox is a solution to a very modern problem.
The Solarbox won £5,000 funding from the 2014 Low Carbon Entrepreneur competition, organized by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
“In our modern world, where hardly any Londoner is complete without a raft of personal gizmos in hand, it’s about time our iconic boxes were update for the 21st Century, to be useful, more sustainable,” said Johnson.