Food trucks are switching out dirty gas generators with this zero-emissions option

Food trucks in the US are huge business, and huge polluters with noisy generators spewing noxious fumes into the air, making that artisan taco a little less palatable. But this Seattle startup, Joule Case, is building a unique business by supplying modular battery systems to food trucks eager to ditch the gas generators for a clean, quiet electric alternative. 

It’s an exciting proposition, considering that a single ice cream truck with a diesel generator emits the equivalent of burning 83 pounds of coal a day, according to Joule Case CEO James Wagoner. Joule Cases are now running in more than 100 food truck and ice cream trucks, supplying enough juice to power espresso machines, kettles, stovetops, microwaves, and multiple fridges and freezers at the same time.

Back before the pandemic, the company supplied zero-emissions power to music festivals. But then they pivoted to food trucks, offering a clean replacement to diesel generators, which emit carbon monoxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and carcinogenic benzene into the air – a side effect that is now coming under heavier scrutiny. Joule offers an array of mobile battery packs and inverter bundles (ranging from 3kW/5kWh to 26kW/90kWh ) with an option to pair them with solar panels.

Seattle-based food truck Theo’s Gyros used a propane generator before switching to electric, but while it was cleaner that a diesel engine, it still made a lot of noise and was unreliable, breaking down, shutting off power with a long list of orders in the queue, said owner Stephano Theo in a video on the company’s website. Batteries offer a more reliable option.

Another perk is that corporations are looking for zero-emissions suppliers and vendors for events. Festivals have to comply with government regulations and avoid any lawsuits, so electrified food trucks can help give small business owners an edge. New York City legislation is under way to hopefully ban gas generators in residential ice cream trucks, and major music festivals and bands are seeking ways to create events with smaller carbon footprints.

Of course, the battery system is pricey (a base 13kW/30kWh battery and inverter system goes for $21.6K). But Joule Case says that while it cost more up front than a gas generator, companies will get that money back within a year in savings from fuel and repairs. Additionally, all Joule Case systems above 5kWh qualify for a 30% federal tax credit.

Electrek’s Take

The US alone has more than 35,000 food trucks generating $1.5 billion in revenue, and transitioning these businesses to 100% electric energy would make a huge dent in CO2 emissions. For its part, Joule Case aims to switch 2,000 food trucks to electric over the next five years, with an eye on supplying similar setups to construction crews.

Tacking the problem of gas generators is gaining more and more momentum – British Columbia is being urged to ban diesel generators from film crews, which are spewing tons of poisonous fumes into local residences in cities like Vancouver. Companies like Joule Case are leading the way forward, and that is something we can totally get behind.

Photos (except top image): courtesy of Joule Case

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