February 28, 2014
In recent years, the United States has seen a rapid increase in the food truck and cart industry. And, while certainly an opportunity for entrepreneurial Saveur devotees (and the people whose appetites they fill), this explosion of growth necessitates an increased demand on energy and its consequent effects on the environment. I mean, it certainly can’t be good to have all those generators running all day – is one taco really worth the long-lasting effects from all that pollution? By providing grid-powered electricity to these food trucks and other long-haul vehicles, Simply Grid hopes to make a lasting impact on energy use and carbon emissions.
“When you look at the market and how they’re getting electricity, generators are a pretty expensive way to serve energy needs. Not only that, but they’re noisy and produce a lot of pollution. Especially for food trucks, people aren’t too receptive to [the use of the generators],” said cofounder and COO Jeffrey Hoffman.
Simply Grid provides on-demand electricity that is more cost- and environmentally-friendly than through the current methods (which is primarily through generators or a vehicle’s battery power itself or through battery packs). The NYC-based startup accomplishes this by providing self-service electricity through industry standard charging stations/pedestals across a city. In the case of food trucks, vendors simply need to plug into one of these pedestals, and then activate power simply through their mobile phone (the entire service is cloud-based). Users pay per hour, and each pedestal can accommodate 3-4 trucks at a time.
“I want to help the customers, but at the end of the day, I see that the world can be more efficinet and smarter [with Simply Grid],” said CEO Mike Dubrovsky.
The obvious advantages to Simply Grid system is that it will reduce the overall energy costs for users, as well as sharply reduce the amount of pollution that goes out into the environment. Aside from food trucks, the company sees a lot of potential in other long-haul vehicles, such as RVs, refrigerated delivery trucks, and fire and EMS vehicles. According to Hoffman, there’s a lot of potential in these industries because the vehicles involve a lot of idle time with running engines, which contribute to their high fuel costs on top of the environmental effects. For example, EMS vehicles sit idling 10-14 hours per day, every day of the year; with over 625 EMS vehicles in NYC alone; this is obviously a huge opportunity for the company. Indeed, Simply Grid is moving into expanding its services to these industries, having recently put in a bid with the NYC fire department.
Currently, Simply Grid has pedestals set up in Austin, Atlanta, and NYC. Since winning the Challenge Cup NYC Regional Competition, the company has been working hard on expanding services to other cities, as well as looking into additional partners. Their NYC pilot program that launched in September of last year enabled them to work with lot owners and municipalities to set up pedestals for food truck vendors, but none of that would have been possible without partnerships from Con Edison, the NYC Mayor’s Office, the NYC Depart of Transportation, and Closed Loop Advisors. They’re doing a lot of research into the anti-idling industry and looking at ways to improve their current technology to alleviate all the inefficiencies. When it comes to facing the competition at the Challenge Cup Global Finals, Hoffman said that they’re at a competitive advantage in overall cost and energy savings: “We’ve gone after the low-hanging fruit: our system doesn’t require a large development cost. We’re connecting the dots rather than building an expensive and risky product.”
The Challenge Cup is produced by 1776 in partnership with Tech Cocktail and iStrategyLabs.
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