Solar Pop


This fantastic solar ice pops truck is a few years old, but I hadn’t seen it before, and think it’s a great example of education meets design, meets delicious!

I just designed a bright orange popsicle truck that evangelizes solar energy. It is actually a popsicle truck covered in popsicle-shaped-infographics about solar energy that distributes free popsicles! Via Kelli Anderson and Dina M:

The multitasking contraption also runs off of solar energy when stopped, effectively demonstrating how solar can power the activity of a bustling kitchen.

This fun project, lead by Jason Anello, is going to roll towns wherein this solar power company (Sungevity) operates and hand out free, artisanally-made popsicles to the energy- (and apparently popsicle-) consuming public. With any luck, the combination of sugar, facts, and the threat-of-humanity’s-self-inflicted-demise-owing-to-dirty-energy will be persuasive enough to get some people off the grid.

Jason brought me into the fold after he was already sourcing parts. Although the truck looks like it must have been born this way, it actually began life as a standard-issue mail truck:

Jason had a chop shop change the shape of the front, drop the entire truck down a few inches, and outfit it with solar power. He also added “leveling” hydraulics to avoid the truck-tilt caused by the convex banking streets (a phenomenon that imbues the onlooker with a sense of psychological dread tantamount to being on the leaning side of a Richard Serra.) A press of the keyfob ceremoniously erects the solar panels and serving windows in a slow, majestic sort of levitation/transformation—much like the batmobile (or one of those -mobiles.) I’m not much of a car person, but even I know that this is fancy.

Check out Jason’s documentation video, which showcases his attention to detail with this thing:

As people queue around the truck, they are brought into close range of the infographics. The statistics are incredible. They quickly reveal that the amount of energy needed to fuel all human activity is trivial when compared to the amount of energy in a day’s worth of sunlight. And yet, solar accounts for less than 1% of all energy in the U.S (thanks, coal lobby…)

The entire truck was designed and assembled in 6 weeks. I took two different design approaches for the graphics (which were developed before we knew the actual dimensions of the truck, so the components had to remain relatively flexible.)

The first approach utilized the surface of the truck to diagram its the energy-producing activity, (showing how solar works):

Since this solar company, Sungevity, is grid-tied, the diagram also shows how excess solar is fed back into the grid, and how energy can also be pulled from the grid when necessary—essentially using the grid like a battery. I found the logic of this process elegant, and was excited to showcase it, but the strange shape of the truck called for much cleaner lines than the diagram required.  Continue Reading…