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Coca-Cola's Bio Cooler Keeps Cans Cool—Without Electricity

Using pre-industrial cooling methods, agency Leo Burnett Colombia created a self-cooling fridge, packed it with Cokes, and delivered it to Aipir, one of Colombia's hottest towns.

After a particularly punishing northeastern winter, the onset of summer is being met with particularly boisterous glee. But the funny thing about us North Americans is that come the dead of summer when the heat waves start rolling in we’ll promptly forget about the insufferable cold of a few months prior, and we’ll start collectively grouching that it’s just too damn hot.

The thing is, even when it reaches 91,000 damn degrees, we still have a respite. Most people can just head inside and turn up the AC, or at least grab a cold drink. Or, if absolutely necessary, sticking our heads in an open freezer for a few moments is always an option. But for the people of Aipir, Colombia, which with temperatures often reaching 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) is considered to be one of the country’s hottest towns, cooling down with modern conveniences isn’t really an option: most villagers have no electricity, hence, no fridges in which to cool their drinks—or pop their heads in. And something as simple as getting a cold drink or ice requires a day-long journey.

Fernando Hernández, ECD of Leo Burnett Colombia, says that's why Coca-Cola decided to bring a little bit of refreshment to this parched, sun-baked town. Since trucking down a fridge full of frosty soda wasn’t an option in such an off-the grid locale, the agency devised the Bio Cooler, a portable four-legged fridge topped with plants that uses ancient cooling science to cool drinks without electricity.

"The creative process started with the founding of the evaporation system principle by our industrial design team, a principle used by ancient cultures taking plants and wet dirt to keep cool food in ceramic chambers," says Hernández. "Then, we thought about the need in third-world countries as ours of small town or villages far away from cities where people don't have basic needs as water or electricity, and in such cases they don't have the chance of have refrigerators to drink cold beverages. So we linked it to the brand purpose of Coca-Cola of bringing joy and happiness, and we came up with the idea of creating a fridge that, based on that principle of evaporation, doesn't need electricity to operate."

Developed with the International Physics Centre in Bogota, the Bio Cooler actually performs better the hotter it gets. The cooling system works two ways: when the plants are watered, the evaporation cools another chamber; and solar power is used to turn a gas contained in the unit into liquid. That process creates an additional cooling effect.

The project was born from Coca-Cola’s desire to bring a little bit of refreshment to locations with super hot weather and no regular power supply, and took a year to develop. The Bio Cooler works like a vending machine and can stock three different types of canned drinks—though perhaps a multi-purpose fridge-like unit might have been more useful.

In the long term, however, Hernández hopes this will grow into a more pragmatic solution. "We believe that if this idea can evolve and become global, many people in many countries in these conditions can benefit in a huge way, not only drinking cold beverages in hot places with no electricity but keeping medicines and vaccines fresh and in good condition. We hope we can take this idea to a higher level. We will love to do that."

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  • Pu Koh

    instead of just no electricity, these people won't have teeth, or their health for much longer. Thanks Coca Cola!

  • Carlos Miniño

    1 glass of coke is not going to harm anyone, if they decide to drink coke for the rest of their lives, that's on them. that's like saying kfc, wendy's and the entire fast food industry is making everyone fat.... not true. I get your point, coke isn't the healthiest thing on Earth, but you gotta admit this is a great invention, after drinking the cans of coke they can put water in it, think about that for a minute.

  • Maritza Rosas

    Love the idea!! I'm from Mexicali, Baja California Mexico and we do have AC but the electric bill is just ridiculous... Just today the trempreture is 44 Celsius and it´s not even summer yet!! So these coolers could help a lot of people here that every year die of dehidration.. I would love to know the prices and how with Coca Cola Mexico we could help these people out, while also giving them the refreshing drink.

  • jsg911

    This is very distressing. Why not pack that fridge with medicines and nutritious food? This is not cool. This is egotistical, egocentric, culturally myopic, and selfish beyond the pale.

  • Suzy Martin

    I Agree and thought the same thing at first. However, if a corporation like coke and a large agency like Leo Burnet create something like this for promotion, at least they are putting $ into developing a great thing that maybe would never have gotten any legs.

    Hopefully, hopefully, they now put some $ or start a foundation to get these distributed in the way you called out.

  • Garrick Robert Wells

    Absolutely great ,my Granny with her outside meat safe of the cool wall of the house would have loved the idea.Think of the coal we no longer would /will have to burn. I want the Australasian patent and agency for our outback please. Garrick Wells