Need to Recharge your Smartphone, Tablet or Even Your Car? Take it to the Streets!

By Akudo McGee 6 Min Read

Ready to hear about another awesome tech startup? Well, you’ve come to the right place because this week’s Hungarian-based clean energy startup, Platio is pretty dang awesome.

Imagine you’re away from home but your phone is dying. With more and more public places becoming "pay to use" areas, your options for charging your device and staying connected may be very limited. For many of us, we bite the bullet and go without heading home or buy a latte and for a quick charge at Starbucks but what if that wasn’t an option?

What is there wasn’t any place to charge your device besides at home or, what if you didn’t have a home to go back to? This next startup could make it possible to charge everything from your mobile devices and even your electric car right on the street!

You’ve likely seen some "smart street" designed before, whether they’re streets lined with lights or solar panels. So what makes Platio different and how does it work? Platio, who installed a 50-square foot solar sidewalk in Budapest, Hungry recently became a shining example of how energy can be generated in a way that is is unobtrusive, accessible and good for the environment.

Their solar panel-lined sidewalk, which is created using recycled plastic coupled with an EV charging station, is an off-grid renewable energy system that can be used to charge devices using ports.

The electricity generated by the solar panels can even be stored or it can be used for the various functions of the sidewalks or other devices and locations. For instance, energy harvested during the daylight hours can be stored for later use or it can be used to light public spaces, control traffic systems or to power other nearby, electronic devices.

All of this works independently from the grid so even if the power goes out, it will still function. Unlike similar sidewalk solar panel devices, it’s easier to install and maintain and unobtrusive, as it does not require a special foundation to set or install and functions like a normal pavement, able to take everyday wear and tear. Tempered glass provides protection for the solar panels and can withstand 1000 N/m2 of force.

On their site, they assure that to break a 1 cm x 1 cm square of this material a weight of 10 tons is needed- so it has the weight-bearing capacity needed for regular use. To damage it by force a hammer of at least 5kg (or 11 lbs) is needed and if broken, the glass will remain in one piece instead of splintering so, it can still be walked on, without harming pedestrians. If that happened, however, its function will be decreased.

Just how safe is an expensive solar panel system on the streets of any city? Well, besides the weight and force needed to damage it, the covers cannot be removed without a special tool and a lot of effort so it’s unlikely vandals will be able to disable the devices or steal the solar panels. What about upkeep?

According to Platio’s website, not much effort is needed for maintenance. The only cleaning required is using water if the service becomes dirty. In the case that the glass becomes irreparably damaged or filthy, it can, of course, be replaced by special tools.

Their devices can even be customized, depending on the location and requirements of establishments. For instance, they can be requested with a non-slip surface so that even in wet or icy weather, special glass treatment or ribbed surface patterns make it safe for everyone.

So far their device has been tested in Astana, Kazakhstan, near office and residential buildings, in Budapest and at sea pontoons, where people access their yachts and other boats. Each time the device functioned adequately and, in the case of the Pop-up park event in Budapest, passersby were actually able to lounge on wooden furniture equipped with USB charging ports for their devices.

Though the tests have been small, the implications are huge. This could mean a way for the homeless or anyone walking by to charge their devices while waiting for the bus, relaxing in the park or hanging out with some friends. It could also be used for larger devices, like electric cars, which are set to increase astronomically in use (well, here in Western Europe at least).

Though this project is amazing for many reasons, perhaps the biggest win would be the transformation of public spaces back into exactly that, public spaces where you can exist, hang out, spend time and enjoy your environment without having to be a paying customer.

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