How solarbox is turning London's red phone boxes green

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Earlier this month solarbox launched its first free solar charging station. The green phone box is on Tottenham Court Road and has been funded under the Mayor of London’s Low Carbon Entrepreneur Competition. Solarbox co-founder Kirsty Kenney spoke to pv magazine about how she hopes to give the red phone boxes a solar re-birth.

Why do you think that the iconic red phone booths present an opportunity for phone charging stations?

Unfortunately, red phone boxes have become synonymous with anti-social behavior and largely they no longer represent a positive addition to our public spaces. Solarbox is about reversing this trend and bringing something that is so quintessentially British up to date. We spent a lot of time researching what the demand for the service was as well as perfecting our design through a series of focus groups.

How many red phone booths are there and how many do you think you can convert into PV phone charging stations?

There are about 65,000 telephone boxes in the UK and 8,000 in London. Around two thirds of the booths are no longer commercially viable. We are looking at scaling across London first and would like to open 6-10 by next Spring. Beyond that we will be looking at cities across the UK and introducing alternative products to the public charging market.

How long does it take to charge a phone? Or is it more to get a user through a low-charge pickle?

Our charging points offer the maximum charging speed that you can get – but the actual speed depends on the make, model and how many apps you have open. For example if you put your phone on aeroplane mode it will charge almost twice as quickly.

The idea is that people use solarbox in the ‘low-charge pickle’ situation (or put ‘help I’m on less than 10% situation’ or use it as an oppourtunity to get some free charge while they are in the area. The location is a very busy throughway and as it’s located right next to a tube station and a theatre there are often people waiting around.