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The SolarPump Charging Station provides free power for charging cellphones, laptops, electric bikes, and other gadgets by converting solar energy to electricity right on the spot. Conceived by Beth Ferguson, an Austin-based designer, artist, and social entrepreneur, the SolarPump is meant to be both practical and thought-provoking.

Ferguson believes green charging stations are critical to helping society transition from gasolineto electric vehicles charged from renewable energy. “The SolarPump Electric Charging Station is designed to help people reimagine the future of transportation,” she declares.

The first SolarPump used a 1950s Citgo gas pump to make sure the message really hit home. The power comes from solar panels on the roof, so there’s no cost for charging. The face of the gas pump has an LED digital display that indicates solar panel voltage, total wattage of plugged-in devices, and battery bank energy level.

The current SolarPump station uses two deep-cycle 100-amp-hour, 12-volt batteries to create a 24-volt system, and an 1,100-watt inverter that supplies standard 110-volt AC power. Three bifacial solar panels charge the batteries through a charge controller. A Pentametrix system gathers data from the current shunts, then sends it digitally over RS-232 to the custom digital display module.

After building the first SolarPump prototype in 2009 for a design show at the University of Texas, Ferguson launched the nonprofit Sol Design Lab with a talented crew of designers, fabricators, and electricians. Their mission: to educate people about energy use and encourage a shift to electric vehicles, by exhibiting solar charging stations.

Four SolarPumps have been built so far, and they’ve been big hits at festivals and fairs like Coachella, South by Southwest, SolarFest, and Maker Faire. The latest charging stations incorporate outdoor furniture, lockers, and wireless internet.

SolarPump Charging Stations: soldesignlab.com

Interview on Make: Online: makezine.com/go/solarpump


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