Next semester, students will be able to purchase a solar-powered snow cone near UT. SolarSno is the first ever off-grid snow cone truck in Austin that uses solar energy to power its entire operation. Off-grid means the energy used is independent of other electric systems.
Owner Thomas Myers said the 1,300 watt solar array on the roof uses the sun to power systems inside the truck, including air conditioning, cooler, freezer and hot water pump. The solar energy is then stored in the 8.2 kilowatt battery bank — a series of 4,120 connected batteries — which is then converted inside the actual trailer.
SolarSno will be open for business in March 2019. Myers said he is scouting two locations by UT.
“It’s not like regular food trucks,” Myers said. “Off-grid has a battery bank, and it’s not connected to anything. It’s an entirely self-sustaining system.”
The energy stored in the battery bank can be used if the truck is running low on energy, Myers said. A full battery bank can run the truck for three days, or eight hours when air conditioning is being used. Myers said his prior experience working as a logistics officer for the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan opened his eyes to alternative energy production and storage.
Myers said he revamped his snow cone truck business in March 2017, with the mission of reducing fuel consumption by utilizing a zero-compromise system that only relies on solar energy power.
Since his trailer doesn’t need a power outlet, Myers can park his truck in high demand spots in downtown for a fraction of the price. Myers said he pays 25 percent less compared to his competitors because of the advantage of off-grid.
“Not only is this good for the environment, but it’s good for the landowner, it’s good for me and then everyone gets snow cones in a really great location,” Myers said.
Benjamin Gaddis, a communication studies graduate student at UT, said he has worked with Tom in the past. He is a frequent customer at SolarSno and said it’s great that someone in the Austin community is taking initiative to run a sustainable business.
“It’s one of the only food trucks I know that can honestly be placed anywhere — you just need to find the sun,” Gaddis said. “The fact that the solar panels can run the truck is very impressive.”
Sustainability studies senior Max McCready said the concept of a renewably powered snow cone truck works in Austin because of the hot weather.
“Utilizing that same source of the heat to power a snow cone truck seems quite practical and a great solution to problems of overconsumption,” McCready said.
Myers said he wants his snow cone business to inspire others to pursue off-grid solar energy.
“I care about business, but I want a purpose,” Myers said. “I know how silly shaved ice is, it’s a silly product. However, by demonstrating this, it proves something. I believe it’s a stepping stone for myself to do other things with sustainability.”