It's time to get the diesel out of our food trucks

food trucks
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter/ Food trucks at the University of Toronto

Cycling home through the University of Toronto the other day I passed these two food trucks, both with very loud and very smelly diesel engines, probably running the generators needed to keep the salmonella at tolerable levels. Now I realize that these are not state of the art food trucks, having been parked there I think since I was a U of T student in the class of 7T6, but they are terrible, disruptive, polluting things. Since they are almost permanent institutions, surely an outlet could be installed and they could be electrified. And in fact, that is exactly what has been tried in New York, with Simply Grid from Move Systems.

Simply grid© Simply Grid from Move Systems

Most mobile food vendors use a dirty, noisy generator to power their onboard electricity needs. This legacy source of energy is both expensive for the vendors as well as a pollution and noise nuisance. Simply Grid's curbside electrification enables private lot managers and municipalities to provide electricity to these vendors who can meet their energy needs at a significant cost savings while providing a better environment for everyone.

These trucks have licences to occupy those parking spaces; surely it would be cheaper for them and better for the University to install something like this. Or there are other more drastic alternatives:

food truck© MOVE

Move Systems is also the company that is out to build food trucks that don't burn diesel. These started rolling out this past summer.

MOVE Systems was created to bring the mobile food industry into the 21st century by developing safe, environmentally sound, and attractive vending units manufactured in America. By employing our unique hybrid energy system, we are able to rid the city streets of dangerous propane tanks and polluting generators and, in the process, provide the most sophisticated technology for the next generation of food carts & trucks.

In his post, Derek noted that they would cut GHG emissions by 60% and to slash NOx pollution by 95%.

bike cafe in copenhagenLloyd Alter/ mobile crepe cafe in Copenhagen/CC BY 2.0

Or perhaps, as Dylan Reid wrote recently in Spacing, a bike cart would be a better alternative. He saw one in Paris and was impressed, as I was in Copenhagen.

Apart from the wow factor, the concept has several advantages. They are temporary, emissions-free, and mobile. Bikes can reach places vehicles would have a hard time with: the Paris park was only accessible by a ramp, more easily maneuvered by a bike than a vehicle. ... And a food bike is temporary, so it doesn’t even have to open at times when no-one will be around, or can go to different locations depending on demand. It doesn’t need to run a motor, so its emissions are far lower than a food truck, and lower too than a food stand that has to be brought in and out by motor vehicle.

Really, U of T, pick one. But it is intolerable that a campus that works so hard to be green and clean has these old things spewing out exhaust in this day and age.

It's time to get the diesel out of our food trucks
There are good alternatives out there that would not cause so much pollution.

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