published Friday, April 19th, 2013

Solar-powered soda vendor is Chattanooga made

The SVK Solar Vending Kiosk, a 100% off-grid solar vending machine made locally in Chattanooga, Tenn., by the company VendoMax, is designed as a trailer and can be towed on-site.
The SVK Solar Vending Kiosk, a 100% off-grid solar vending machine made locally in Chattanooga, Tenn., by the company VendoMax, is designed as a trailer and can be towed on-site.
Photo by Doug Strickland.
  • photo
    The Solar Z is a solar-powered soda vending machine made by VendoMax in Chattanooga.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

VendoMax officials call the beverage vending industry one of the least environmentally green in the country.

"There's no sustainability," said Chattanooga businessman Rob Creswell, who hopes to change the trend with the company's innovative new solar-powered vending machines.

Saying the company is introducing "the greenest vending on the planet," Creswell and partner Mark Hixson term the products the world's first completely sustainable solar vending units.

Next week at a Las Vegas vending show, the company plans to display two machines, one on wheels and the other a fixed unit.

Creswell, president of a local industry supply company, and Hixson, who heads a Chattanooga printing firm, said the units are expected to be rolled out for use within the next three months.

They hope to gain contracts with beverage businesses and produce the machines in Chattanooga. They declined to say how much the units cost.

The unit on wheels, which looks something like a big soft-drink can on its side, can hold up to 1,300 cold drinks, according to VendoMax. Solar panels perched atop the unit provide the power, while batteries inside the machine offer backup when the sun's not shining.

Creswell said the unit is perfect for festivals, football games and other outdoor events.

The stationary unit is 16 feet long and features not only a typical-looking vending machine but seating space as well. Overhead, solar panels provide the power to cool the drinks. That unit, too, holds batteries for cloudy days.

Hixson said typical vending machines tend to be "power hogs," so their solar units solve a big problem for beverage companies.

"This goes from the least efficient to the most efficient," Hixson said.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said he saw the concept for the machines a couple of years ago and "never had a doubt" the pair of businessmen could bring the idea to fruition.

"I'm hopeful it catches on and creates jobs here," he said. "This is what I like about the innovative spirit in the county."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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