I know the food part of food trucks, but need help on the truck part of food trucks

mikekmikek Registered Users Posts: 4
I am interested in switching over from a noisy generator to battery power. My total needs will be in the 10kw range. I have an old 60-70"s city transit bus. Detroit Diesel. My requirements will be for heating/AC, lighting, small freezer, large fridge, hot water, electric start grill (propane powered), 2 sous vide machines (1100w continuous), and if I have enough left over....fountain pop and coffee. Phew!
Am I looking at too much power requirements to justify deep-cycle batteries, plus souped up alternator on the bus (I want to be able to charge while driving as well as at home base), plus heavy duty inverter? There will be times when it will run for 8 hours, but usually about 2 hours at a time.

I read over one post from about 9 years ago. Have things gotten cheaper and more efficientsince then?
Kindest regards,


  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,616 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Sadly, a dedicated generator is going to be needed.  The volume and weight of the battery bank, along with it's semi-irregular replacement in 5 years, leans heavily toward a generator.  Those sous vide machines, once they are hot, won't need much power, but how do you manage the 4 hour cooking cycle @ 135F in a food truck ?
    Can you go propane for the hot water, fryer, burners, room heat instead of electric. 
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
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  • mikekmikek Registered Users Posts: 4
    I am on a shoestring budget. I am cannibalizing an old workhorse of a food truck and using all available parts from it because....well, it's free. Hot water tank is small, less than 3 gallons. The fryer and grill are propane. I don't heating/AC yet. It will be needed in this Canadian prairie climate. I will be on the lookout for auctions and kijiji for gas units.
    How do I manage the 4 hour cycle? Well....I guess, judging by your advice, a 10-12KW generator. Now it looks like I will have to find one as silent as possible.
    Thanks for the advice!
  • Marc KurthMarc Kurth Solar Expert Posts: 691 ✭✭✭✭
    I have been involved with several food trucks - very popular around here starting 6-7 years ago. Their typical requirement is no diesel truck engine or generator running during stops ranging from 15-45 minutes each. Because of this, most of them end up with hybrid systems with large battery banks, specialized large alternator with outboard regulators and a smaller generator setup.

    For extended serving periods like parties and big "events", a little Honda or Yamaha generator is deployed a little further away from the truck using a good extension cord. Even with a sizable load on the inverter, the constant input of 1500+ watts per hour back into the battery bank greatly extends their battery bank run time.

    They all work quite well, but each was quite expensive with 500-750 ah, 24v battery bank,  alternators setup for high current at low RPM and external regulators with 3 stage charging, big inverter/charger and small generator. But then, these guys are investing big dollars in their rigs, including the kitchens.

    Because of the rough duty, they tend to only get a 3 to 4 year lifespan from expensive batteries and about 12-16 months from cheaper batteries.
    I always have more questions than answers. That's the nature of life.
  • mikekmikek Registered Users Posts: 4
    It sounds like battery power is too expensive and too cumbersome. I guess we're not at the point yet where reliance on alternatives to fossil fuel would be more economical.
    I think I have no choice but to get a large and hopefully quiet generator. Shame.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,060 admin
    There is a battery chemistry that can be a possible choice: LiFePO4 family.

    Not cheap, very light weight, high charge/discharge rates (possibly a smaller AH battery bank).

    Convert cooking equipment (that you can) to propane.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • jonrjonr Solar Expert Posts: 1,360 ✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2016 #7
    Consider smaller, quieter inverter generators (2x Honda 2000?), fewer batteries (agreed, lithium would be ideal) plus an inverter with generator assist. Maybe convert the generators to propane too.

    I am available for custom hardware/firmware development

  • Marc KurthMarc Kurth Solar Expert Posts: 691 ✭✭✭✭
    I'm sure that people have different needs, but all of the trucks that I deal with don't, want the fumes from a generator interfering with the food taste and smell. (These aren't the old "roach coaches" hitting construction sites)

    I would love to see a working food truck using some form of a lithium based battery bank. The few attempts that I have seen died early. I wasn't involved with these, so I do not know the failure points. I was called when they were looking for new batteries and their friends referred them to me. With high operating temperatures in truck battery bays in these applications, most equipment takes a beating.

    Sure, I hear stories from angry customers - but I do not know enough to share good information.
    I always have more questions than answers. That's the nature of life.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,029 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Lithium is a year away in most apps. You need a Honda EU 7000i in my humble opinion. I have done a few...
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
    E-mail [email protected]

  • oil pan 4oil pan 4 Solar Expert Posts: 766 ✭✭✭✭
    I wouldn't bother with Lithium in this application. Its too expensive and replacements are difficult to find. Can a food truck really afford to be down for days waiting on batteries? When any normal battery shop will stock replacement deep cycle batteries.

    Solar hybrid gasoline generator, 7kw gas, 180 watts of solar, Morningstar 15 amp MPPT, group 31 AGM, 900 watt kisae inverter.

    Solar roof top GMC suburban, a normal 3/4 ton suburban with 180 watts of panels on the roof and 10 amp genasun MPPT, 2000w samlex pure sine wave inverter, 12v gast and ARB air compressors.

  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,029 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2016 #11
    I would not use lithium either now, but it is really light and in the future it will be really easy to do this. Throw in a nice quiet EU7000i and autostart on battery voltage or load.
    The other dirty secret of lithium is that it will be expensive initially but once the supply and design safety is worked out/tested over time, not much reason for lithium to be expensive. It should be far cheaper than lead acid in just 2 years.
    The power density is amazing!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
    E-mail [email protected]

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