We’ve seen the rise of food trucks for several years now. It has evolved from a humble covered wagon selling pies, and sandwiches, to a simple cart that sells hotdogs to trucks that serve gourmet meals.
The food truck industry is a $1.48 billion industry whose boom began in 2008. It can be considered that it is a product of recession as the overhead cost of running a full-blown restaurant costs more compared to selling food in a compact space and employing fewer people.
Their appeal is that you can just easily order, grab, and eat food, saving time and quickly satisfying one’s hunger. And, not to mention that the food being offered by food trucks is quite diverse. That is why it is not surprising that this industry continues to grow, and since 2018 it has grown at a steady rate of 9.9% (Zippia).
The cost of running a food truck
According to Cloud Kitchen, on average owning a food truck can cost at least $100,000. Provided below is a breakdown of expenses when starting up:
- Licenses and Permits - There are at least seven licenses and permits food truck owners need to get to operate their food truck business. This includes an employee permit, a health permit, a seller’s permit, a parking permit, a food service license, a food truck permit, and a “hawkers and peddlers” license. On average, these can cost owners $28,276 as per the Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s study.
- Food truck - Getting a food truck can be achieved in three ways. You can build your own food truck which can cost at least $50,000, or you can buy a used food truck which can start at $30,000 and can go as high as $100,000, and you can also buy a new fully-fitted truck that can go between $50,000 to $175,000.
- Equipment - For those starting from scratch, purchasing kitchen equipment and a POS terminal can cost about $45,000.
Food Truck’s electricity usage
Electricity plays a huge role in operating a food truck. It powers the lights, the refrigerator, the air conditioning system, and microwaves at a minimum. The amount of electricity required depends on how big the truck is and the various equipment inside. It can go between 4,000 to 6,000 watts on average.
Provided below are the basic food truck appliances and their electricity requirements:
- Lighting - 50-200 watts
- POS systems - 200-400 watts
- Freezers - 800-1,200 watts
- Refrigerators - 400-800 watts
- Grills - 1,000-3,000 watts
- Fryers - 2,000-5,000 watts
- Blenders - 300-800 watts
- Ovens - 1,500-3,000 watts
Using solar panels to generate power for food trucks
Using solar energy to run a food truck’s generator is a newer idea compared to its counterparts such as propane, diesel, gas, and inverter. All of them are fossil fuels that can emit toxic fumes, can be quite loud, and release greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, you need to refuel daily if you’re not using solar generators. Depending on the size, you can spend between $5.00 to $10.00 to refuel.
Solar-powered generators such as Nature’s Generator are better options as they are safer to use, easily installed, low maintenance and storage, and not loud when used. Not to mention the fact that one doesn’t have to worry about refueling as the solar panels are constantly charging as there’s always available sunlight.
It is a great way to reduce operating costs and environmental impact as a food truck owner. By using solar panels to generate electricity, you can save money on fuel and maintenance costs, and you can also help to reduce your carbon footprint.
With time, technology has improved that made using solar energy easier, more accessible, and less expensive.
How many solar panels are you going to need?
To know how many solar panels you’re going to need to operate your food truck you must:
- List down all of your kitchen equipment and their energy requirements. You can see this on the appliance’s user manual and on the appliance’s nameplate. Sum all of them up.
- Know how long you’re going to use or operate your food truck .
- Multiple the number of hours by your total food truck wattage.
- Determine your location’s sunlight hours and a solar panel’s collected watts per hour.
- (Power demand of the food truck) / (Sunlight hours x Watts per hour collected by the individual solar panels).
Your total wattage requirement is 5,000 watts and you’ll be operating your food truck for 6 hours each day.
5,000 watts X 6 hours = 30,000 watts
A solar panel can collect 400 watts per hour and your location has 6 hours of sunlight.
30,000 / (6 hours X 400 watts) = 12.5
So, you may need 13 solar panels. But this is just an estimate, reach out to solar power experts to make sure that your power needs are met.
Tips when using solar panels
To reach your solar panels full potential, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Location. The more sunlight your solar panels receive, the more electricity they will generate. So, be sure to keep in mind not just if the spot has good foot traffic, does it also has good sun exposure.
- Time. Operating in the morning to lunch hours is energy efficient. Keep this in mind as the sun is at its peak during these hours, giving solar panels exposure to the sun for a long time.
- Keep your solar panels clean. Dirty solar panels will not generate as much electricity.
- Monitor your solar system regularly. This will help you to ensure that your solar system is operating properly and that you are getting the most out of your investment.
Solar Panels are not just confined to one’s home. They can also be used to run a food truck. But they can be quite the investment. But think about long-term gains and not short-term ones. Since you don’t have to think about refueling because you have a renewable source of energy, making solar panels cost-effective.