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Joao Peixe

Joao Peixe

Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com

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Charging Electric Cars from Old Pay Phones

Charging Electric Cars from Old Pay Phones

With public pay phones a thing of the past, harkening to the days when Superman used them as a changing booth, the City of New York is toying with putting these relics to use as electric vehicle charging stations.

The franchise contracts that the city awarded for the operation of public phones will expire in October next year and the city sponsored a design contest how to modernize them.

The winners of the contest came up with all manner of ideas for putting public pay phones to modern-day use, from wi-fi hotspots and 911 services to bike racks and—most ingeniously--electric vehicle recharging stations, which would fill a real need in the city.

New York City Technology Commissioner Rahul Merchant lauded the idea, telling reporters that converting public phones into EV stations was "a great idea we should absolutely entertain."

Related article: Long-Term and Short-Term Clean Tech Investment Opportunities

Setting up electric vehicle charging stations is no small task. It involves digging up sidewalks to run wires underground, making it an expensive ordeal. And here is the brilliance of the pay phone conversion idea: wires have already been run underground and these channels can be used to run power cables for battery-charging facilities.

The lack of charging stations for electric vehicles played a significant role in suppressing them on the market, and the conversion of pay phones could end up being a nice boost for EV sales.

Are there any hurdles? Yes, unfortunately. The location of these pay phones tends to be in areas where there isn’t much space to park, so pulling up to or lining up for charging would be problematic—but not insurmountable.

Some concerns have also been expressed that this would encourage more car usage in the crowded city.

From a technological standpoint, there is also the concern that because payphones run on 120-volt power, it could take four to five hours to charge a hybrid and much longer to charge a fully electric vehicle—so the conversion process would have to be tweaked.

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Mark Johnston, president of Van Wagner Communications, the company that manages advertisements on pay phone booths across the city, told reporters that the idea is likely to run into opposition from agencies with jurisdiction over public sidewalks and parking.

"There are insurance questions, and questions about how long a car could park there. […] It gets complicated very quickly," he was quoted as saying.

The idea is not an unprecedented one. In 2008, the same idea was brought up in Madrid, Spain. In 2010, Madrid started converting its 13,500 phone booths around the country into electric vehicle charging stations.

By. Joao Piexe of Oilprice.com


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