Fill ‘Er Up: Free Solar Charging Station Opens in Austin

Like many UT students, Beth Ferguson was looking for a cheap, convenient way to get to and from campus. Walking took too long, driving was too expensive, and she didn’t want to wait for the bus. So she scored a $200 electric scooter on Craigslist.

There was just one problem. “I loved riding the scooter, but there was nowhere on campus to charge it,” Ferguson says. “I realized that one solar panel could power my scooter.”

Bingo. Ferguson, an MFA in design student, had stumbled upon her thesis project: creating solar-powered stations where anyone can charge not only electric vehicles, but also phones, laptops, and other gadgets.

Now Ferguson has turned her scooter dilemma into a successful small business. Her company, Sol Design Lab, has built four of the devices. She’s taken them to Denmark, SXSW, and the Bonnaroo music festival, where 3,000 people lined up to charge their cell phones in four days.

This Wednesday, she held the grand opening of the first public solar pump in Austin. Located at the corner of West Live Oak and South First Streets, the bright green station incorporates a vintage 1950s-era gasoline pump.

“I thought it’d be humorous to use an old gas pump as the charging station—using an old energy source to deliver a new one,” she says.

The station’s stylish seats and tabletop are made of recycled street signs.

Sol Design is also collaborating with a team of UT students who hope to install a similar station on campus. If funding comes through, Austinites will soon have more than one option to charge on the go.

Watch a video about Sol Design:

Photo courtesy Beth Ferguson


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