Solar power: If it works for trains, why not food trucks?

Chuckwagons; you know, those food trucks that bring meals to the masses in place of the masses driving to a local fast-food establishment or eatery to obtain the same.

So I was watching the T.V. news broadcast in my area the other day and in the news lineup was this article about a local food vendor who operates out of one of these so-named chuckwagons.


The reason the story had made the news was because the proprietor of this particular business was forced to go and borrow, buy or rent (I don’t remember which) a generator to replace the one that was lifted off of this business owner’s truck.

The generator is utilized in this case for the purpose of producing electricity needed for grilling food and perhaps for refrigerating the same prior to it hitting the griddle.

This story caught my attention because now I’m thinking that in order for this particular food-truck operator to keep the generator running so as to be able to cook the food, well, he probably needs to refill the generator’s gas tank; once a day, I’m thinking. I’m also thinking that, if the food truck was outfitted with a solar-panel array, say, on the truck’s roof, and had as well a bank of batteries on board to store and provide electricity to the appliances (cooking and/or refrigerating) therefore augmenting the solar-generated electricity, this method is a more environmentally friendly option and, not just this, but, in the long run, perhaps a money-saver compared to what outlay is for not only the generator itself but for the fuel used to run it as well. I think I remember hearing that the cost to replace the generator that had been stolen was in the thousands of dollars.

Obviously, the economics would have to bear this out. It would need to pencil out, in other words.

That makes me think of the Byron Bay Railway of Byron Bay, Australia which operates a solar-powered passenger train along a 3-kilometers-long-or-so length of railroad track and, as far as I know, the only railway in the world to do so.

Now in order for this railway employing the use of solar technology to be a successful passenger train service provider, to go to the expense of converting a two-unit passenger car set from diesel to renewable solar power and then run the train using this technology, there had to have been justification for doing so.

So let’s look at and think about the solar photovoltaic fundamentals.

There is obviously a cost attached to each solar panel purchased and a number of them would need to be procured so as to be able to provide enough electricity to power the operation at hand, whether this be for a home or business be it stationary or mobile.

Unlike with a generator whereby once the device is purchased and fuel to run it has to be bought on a regular basis, in the case of the solar acquisition, once the panels are paid for, all that’s needed as a power supply is light from the sun which costs nothing. So, this type of system starts to pay dividends practically immediately upon it being purchased and put into service.

Now, in the example of the solar-panel equipped food truck, should such food truck have on it a bank of auxiliary batteries as well, any extra energy that isn’t needed for cooking could be battery-stored. This process has become a common technique of late, so that in the event of a cloudy or rainy day, there would be a backup supply of electricity available so that operations could continue uninterrupted.

The bottom line here is not only does such an operation make economic sense and therefore add to said business’ bottom line, but outside air and people’s health would not be harmed by such in the process.

If a railway located halfway around the world can make a go of solar for its operation that presumably contributes to its success, there is every reason to believe another kind of mobile business – in this case a chuckwagon service – can too. One’s imagination is the only limitation here, folks!

Image: Christian M. Yungbluth, P.E., Wikimedia Commons

– Alan Kandel

3 thoughts on “Solar power: If it works for trains, why not food trucks?”

  1. Thank you for the elaborated content on “Solar power: If it works for trains, why not food trucks?”

    Now the time has come to switch towards the renewable energy sources so we can save the limited sources for our future generation.

  2. This just makes sense. A food truck that emits harmful chemicals to the environment and to its customers would not be sanitary at all. Wherein the case of a solar power system, not only that the business owner will save some bucks but they will also help the environment by not giving out additional pollution.

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