Two young entrepreneurs have converted one of London's many disused red telephone boxes into a solar powered charging station for mobile phones and tablets. The bright green 'Solarbox' kiosk is just the first of many the team hope to launch in the coming months. Matthew Stock reports.
London's iconic red telephone boxes... are going green. Called the Solarbox, this pilot model was launched recently in the city's bustling shopping district to give passers-by a free and easy way to charge their phone. Panels on the roof harvest solar radiation and convert it into electricity which is stored in an in-built battery. Members of the public are then free to plug in their phone for a quick fix of energy when they're low on charge. Harold Craston, graduate of the London School of Economics (LSE), came up with the idea while passing one of the city's many disused phone boxes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HAROLD CRASTON, CO-FOUNDER OF SOLARBOX, SAYING: "I thought there's eight-thousand of these, why not turn something commercially unviable into something productive and something that connects people via public space." Co-founder, fellow LSE graduate Kirsty Kenney, hopes the Solarbox will give London's green credentials a boost. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KIRSTY KENNEY, CO-FOUNDER OF SOLARBOX, SAYING: "London is still very much a city built for cars and I think, on the everyday level, we're not actually that green. And it's not the fault of the public, the infrastructure isn't there yet." The pilot Solarbox was part-funded by a 5,000 pound prize the pair received from London mayor, Boris Johnson, at his recent Low Carbon competition. The team then set to work converting one of the many derelict boxes into the Solarbox. Craston says current energy-sapping phone models mean their kiosk is sure to be in high demand. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HAROLD CRASTON, CO-FOUNDER OF SOLARBOX, SAYING: "Phones are getting more powerful, apps are getting more complex, phones in the last few years are actually getting larger again; but the batteries aren't improving. So, until that happens there will be a reason to use Solarbox and celebrate solar power." In London's famous Tottenham Court Road, the eye-catching Solarbox drew curious looks, and praise for its ingenuity. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TOM, PASSER-BY, SAYING: "Oh yeah, definitely - I'm constantly running out of battery. So, yeah, I think it's great. The fact they're re-using current phone boxes - maintaining heritage - I think is good too." (SOUNDBITE) (English) RON, TOURIST FROM KENTUCKY, USA, SAYING: "I do investments, so I need to stay connected to my office. They call me a lot, even on vacation. And so, something like this is very beneficial to me." The first generation of Solarbox will be funded by advertising, with the makers hoping companies will be enticed by the increased time users will have to interact with the on-screen adverts while they're charging their device. The team are also working with developers on supercapacitors which can fully charge a phone in just 30 seconds. And with photovoltaic efficiency constantly improving, these green boxes could become a familiar sight on London's streets, providing free energy... whatever the weather.