Good news! Renewable energy has become increasingly affordable and practical over the past half decade. This means mobile food owners that want to utilize more environmentally-friendly power have more options now than ever before!
Keep in mind that while the progress of renewable technologies has been in hyper drive in recent years, renewable energy is still mostly used as a supplemental source of energy for most food truck owners that use it.
We recommend that even if you install solar panels on top of your truck to capture energy, you’ll still want a generator installed as well. At the very least this insures you have a backup energy source power from in case of emergencies. There’s nothing worse than experiencing a power outage when there’s a long line of customers waiting to enjoy your food.

Solar panels.

Below are some basic considerations to keep in mind if you’re trying to operate a truck with 100% renewable energy. We hope this gives you perspective on whether or not this is the right choice for your food unit.

Things to Consider Before Going Fully Solar

Some menu concepts require less energy than others so the menu you choose plays a major role in determining how much power you’ll need to generate from the sun or wind.
As a basic example, a coffee truck requires a lot of electricity to power. Why is coffee so demanding on a mobile power grid? The main reason is the amount of equipment that’s typically installed on these units like coffee makers, blenders, and espresso machines.
On the other hand there are food concepts that make harnessing renewable energy more practical. One example is with this pizza truck called Pi featured on a local affiliate WENY News. According to the report, this is the first ever solar and wind power pizza food truck of its kind.

The Pi pizza truck installed solar panels on top of the vehicle to collect energy from the sun. A small wind turbine was also installed. The pizza truck is able to operate a refrigerator, pumps, hot water heater and lights. Since there is a wood-fire pizza oven installed on the truck there’s no need for electricity to power the cooking equipment. If you want to utilize primarily solar power, a pizza truck is a good approach from a power perspective assuming you want a wood fire pizza oven.

Utilizing Solar and Wind Power on Food Units

To figure out how much electric power your food truck will need, you’ll need to start by listing each piece of equipment you plan to use on the truck.
Start out by creating a list of all the cooking equipment: refrigerators, griddles, microwave, coffee maker. Don’t stop at just cooking equipment, however. You’ll also need to list anything requiring electricity like the air conditioning unit, stereo, lights, television or digital menu.
Remember that each piece of equipment will require a certain amount of wattage to work. The more equipment you add to your vehicle the greater the electrical demands will be. Check out our detailed post on determining the electrical power needs for a food truck for more information on this topic. Here’s another really in-depth PDF on determining how to apply solar energy for food trucks.
At M&R Speciality Trailers and Trucks, we can do the math on our end to ensure you have enough power to consistently operate a food truck. We’ve been helping mobile food owners build their units for over 15 years and understand the nuances of powering a food truck.
Additional considerations that must be calculated include how long you plan to operate the vehicle per day. If you plan to operate the food unit for four hours per day, you’ll need a lot less capacity than if you plan to serve at all-day events like fairs where you could be serving for 10+ hours. Also, some cooking equipment will require a surge of extra energy when starting up so you always want to have more available power than you actually need. These are factors manufacturers with less experience frequently don’t take into consideration.

The Bottom Line on Solar Power

Even though there’s been tremendous progress with solar panels and wind turbine technology in recent years, we still recommend installing a generator with a food truck and ensuring there’s an easy way to plug-into another electrical source. Sooner or later you will be thankful you have the flexibility to power the unit in different ways.
The other component you need to consider at the time of writing is the cost of installing a solar panels or wind turbines on a food truck. Both will require additional initial costs that could range from an additional $3,000 – $10,000 in the overall cost of the vehicle. The additional startup cost is something to be aware while you’re in the planning phase of your business. These costs should go down as technology improves in the future, but for right now they can add an extra 5% – 10% to the total cost of a food truck build.
Anything we as a society can do to move to renewable energy alternatives the better. It will be better for the environment and create entire new vertical of jobs. If you’re considering a solar powered food truck for your business, give us a call at 904-397-0246 for a free consultation.