Consider the forlorn phone booth. About 8,000 of London’s famous red telephone boxes sit unused in warehouses, orphans of the digital age. But obsolescence is often the mother of adaptive reuse. In October, a startup called Solarbox London, founded by London School of Economics graduates Harold Craston and Kirstey Kenney (in photo), opened its first Solarbox. The converted phone booth is now a charging station for mobile devices—tablets, cameras, and, yes, smartphones. Who says irony is dead?
The green-painted Solarbox is powered by a 150-watt solar panel on its roof. Inside the box are mini/micro USB and iPhone chargers that can produce a 20% battery boost in 10 minutes. The company is experimenting with supercapacitors that would speed up the charging process.
Charging is free to the public. In its first few days, the Solarbox averaged more than 85 customers a day. The station can handle 100 charges a day. Solarbox London is covering its costs with in-kiosk advertising. The company won a £5,000-prize from London Mayor Boris Johnson’s 2014 Low Carbon Entrepreneur competition, with additional funding from Siemens and UnLtd, a foundation that supports social entrepreneurs.
The plan is to open a second Solarbox in January.