"You can soak up the sun, rest, charge your mobile phone with green electricity and use free Wi-Fi,” says Jörg Oeser, a marketing expert at Stadtwerke Stuttgart, summarising the benefits to the public of a pilot that has introduced eight smart benches to the capital of Baden-Württemberg in a . Aside from their practical uses, they also have an important public relations role to play: “On the bench, you can experience live how green electricity is generated and can be used immediately.”
So how do they work? Each bench is approximately 1.85 metres long and has three monocrystalline solar modules, with an output of 40 watts, and a battery. A ventilation system ensures the seat doesn’t get too hot in the summer, but the seat will be cosy in wintertime. Two mobile phones can be charged via USB connections, and two induction fields start the charging process by simply placing a mobile phone on the bench and activating the function. The solar panels also power LED lighting at night. In addition, the benches can record environmental data, such as fine dust and even noise levels.
The two partners behind the project, Stuttgart’s public utilities company and BW Bank want to promote more widespread use of photovoltaics. The benches have been manufactured by the Pforzheim-based company MessWERK Gmbh and are marketed as ibench.