Most if not all of the growing number of food truck owners are tired of seeing fuel prices continue to increase, but in the current truck market there haven’t been many opportunities for them to take their vehicles off the fuel grid. Although there have been some forms of electric vehicles available for food truck conversion, many of them just don’t meet the size requirements of these mobile chefs.
A new electric van that has hit the market may be a new platform that food truck owners will be able to shift toward. The truck is the eStar EV and its producer (Navistar), is the same truck manufacturing company that makes International Trucks. The eStar was designed from the ground up to be an electric vehicle, giving it an advantage over its gasoline converted competition.
The eStar offers a competitive advantage, due to its low center of gravity, with the battery placement between the frame rails, not mounted on top of the vehicle, and a 36-ft turning circle which is equivalent to a new model, two-door Jeep Wrangler. The cargo area comes in 14 or 16 foot fiberglass boxes which would need to be modified by a kitchen builder to install a generator as well as the storage or cooking equipment a food truck requires.
This vehicle is not something you should expect to use on the highway though as it is governed to a maximum 50 mph.
First introduced in 2009, the all-electric medium-duty eStar is a Class 2c-3 electric truck with a range of up to 100 miles per charge that can be fully recharged within six to eight hours. The “quick-change” cassette-type battery can be swapped out in 20 minutes. Navistar was the beneficiary of a $39.2 million federal stimulus grant to develop and build these electric trucks.
The eStar is the first medium-duty commercial vehicle to receive U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification as a clean fuel fleet vehicle. It is designed for delivery use which is why FEDEX and Coke have already added these trucks into their local delivery fleets. With few modifications this platform could be converted into a food truck in a matter of days or weeks.
The list price of the eStar comes in near $150,000, which is three times more than a comparable diesel van. However, incentives through the Department of Energy and tax credits can bring the actual cost down to $75,000 or less. The key upside is the life cycle savings this truck could save its owner. In using the eStar website saving calculator, a single truck over a period of 10 years with a 4 dollar a gallon average cost for fuel (like that will happen) could save upwards of 18,000 dollars vs. a conventional diesel vehicle.
The truck is distributed through select number of Navistar dealerships that are trained and equipped to maintain and recycle the batteries. The dealers will work closely with local utilities to make sure purchasers have the necessary electric infrastructure to keep the trucks charged.
If you are a future or current food truck owner that is looking to keep your truck as green as possible, the eStar is something you should definitely take a look at.