These days, frustration from a dead cellphone battery is akin to the emotions conjured by a flat tire or a flight delay at the airport. It is an intrusion into people's convenience and connection with the world — so it's no surprise that companies are coming up with mobile phone-charging stations to deal with this pressing issue.
While most charging stations appear in kiosk form with screens for generating advertising revenue, one startup is hoping to put a uniquely active twist on the concept of self-service mobile charging.
Still in its infancy on the funding platform Kickstarter, the Charge Cycle is a charging station in bicycle form. Mounted to a location via a stand, the Charge Cycle is visually similar to a traditional bike with an easily mountable frame and a basket between the handlebars to hold the user's belongings. The difference lies in the dynamo affixed to the wheel that generates electricity as the user "rides" the bike.
Under a lease program the Charge Cycle will serve dual purposes. It will act simultaneously as transportation and as a charge source for the lessee. Once the lessee parks and stations the Charge Cycle at a location, it becomes a free, public-use power resource.
Co-founded by New York-based industrial designers David Krawczyk and Navjot Kaur, the Charge Cycle idea was born out of need and observation.
"We were at first looking for a better solution to some existing phone-charging stations at restaurants and bars," Krawczyk said.
"We saw a lot of people in awkward corners of places plugged in for a charge. We've also found that outlets aren't as readily available as you'd think … Starbucks has even covered some of their outlets."
Krawczyk explained that he and Kaur started thinking about outdoor spaces for charging locations and ways to implement public charging stations into an existing infrastructure.
"I bike everywhere around New York City," he said. "When I lock up, my bike is just taking up space. That's when everything started to fit together."
And since there are a lot of companies coming up with mobile phone-charging kiosks, stations and stands — many of them free to use and requiring zero effort on the part of the user — it could seem risky betting on a concept that encourages exercise when the easy alternatives already exist.
Kaur and Krawczyk naturally disagree.
"The Charge Cycle is not a chore to use, but quite the contrary it is fun and stimulating," Kaur said. "It gives users the chance to stay active as opposed to impatiently waiting for their phone charge at places they've found an outlet."
Krawczyk added that while a lot of things require zero effort, "we're at a point where we are starting to realize we cannot sit back passively."
Implementing recycling was a major milestone that took tremendous startup resources, Krawczyk said, one that required effort on an individual basis, but remained worthwhile and satisfying knowing that one played a part in the global responsibility.
The Charge Cycle would be free for public use and run on a lease program with those interested in riding and placing the bike around New York City, the foreseeable location of the launch. The lease includes the bike (equipped with charging dock, stand and dynamo) as well as a lock and any maintenance required. The duration of the lease is determined by the Kickstarter pledge, Kaur and Krawczyk said.
With 20 days left to reach a $50,000 Kickstarter goal, Kaur and Krawczyk have an uphill climb to meet their funding needs. The pair feels confident, however, that they will find a way to bring the Charge Cycle to the streets.
"We encourage anyone that supports this idea or has experienced the frustrations of a dead phone to pledge a few dollars," Krawczyk said, adding that if they don't meet the Kickstarter goal amount, the concept still has a chance. "We've received a lot of interest from all over the world and would find alternate ways to realize the Charge Cycle."
Watch the video below for an explanation of the Charge Cycle by Kaur and Krawczyk:
Read more about self-service in transportation and travel.