Will pay phones become charging electric vehicle stations?


Photo via Flickr.com user Susan Sermoneta

Over the last decade, cell phones have become ubiquitous in cities across the world, creating less and less of a demand for the public pay phone. According to the Department of Technology and Telecommunications, there are still a little over 10,000 public pay phones on New York City sidewalks. The operational contracts for these kiosks expires in October 2014 and the city has the opportunity to transform the remaining kiosks to meet 21st century needs.

Earlier this year, the city sponsored a design contest to re-imagine these 20th century relics for the mobile 21st century. Several contest winners included electric vehicle charging stations as part of their design.

The electric vehicle is on the rise in the United States, electric vehicle sales are the fastest growing sector of the automotive industry and the number of E.V. models on the market has quadrupled in the last year. One challenge facing E.V. owners is the number and location of charging stations, especially in urban areas.

Converting kiosks into charging stations with two to three parking spaces each would be one potentially creative way to reuse the kiosks, which already have electric power. Finding charging stations can be a challenge for E.V. owners: Jay Friedland, legislative director for Plug in America, said that in one California town, E.V. owners use municipal owned Christmas tree light wiring to recharge.

Conflicting jurisdiction and interests of city agencies could complicate the process, which would involve formal applications and approval from the city. Earlier this year, New York Governor Cuomo announced plans to bring 3,000 charging stations to the state over the next five years and put 40,000 E.V.s on the road in that same period. Converting even a percentage of New York City’s pay phones to charging stations would meet statewide goals and increase access to charging for eager owners.