A U.S. company is developing a solution for people who unexpectedly find themselves with low batteries in their laptops, cell phones or e-bikes. Installed into an existing AC outlet, the 2D2C’s SafePlug 1200-P3 pay-per-use system allows users to gain access with a prepaid plastic card or key fob, then plug their depleted electronic device into it. Not only would the owner of the business in which the outlet was located make money off of electricity sales, but they would also end up with potential shoppers who would be stuck in their store for at least 20 minutes.

The cards or fobs would be available at the front counter of the business or at kiosks, and would be good for 10 to 20 blocks of access time, each one of which could be 20, 30, 45, or 60 minutes in duration – the exact configuration would be determined by the client at the time of purchase. Business owners can also bulk order custom cards, that will only work with outlets in their store or chain.

The P3 automatically shuts off when a client’s device is unplugged, so unsavory types wouldn’t be able to unplug someone else’s device and steal their time.

Users would be charged US$1 for 20 minutes of charging time. The outlet’s operating cost is an estimated 12 cents per kWh.

It’s possible to see a system like this working well in a coffee shop, restaurant or book store, particularly if it were located behind the front counter, so users wouldn’t need to hover within sight of it at all times – it’s perhaps a little more difficult to envision users hanging around a gas station or corner store for 20 minutes or longer.

Given that nobody plans on running out of juice in the field, one also has to wonder how many people would be willing to prepay for at least ten charges. A version that could be activated by a debit or credit card, or by a store employee who would ring the sale in, might be more popular with consumers.