A food truck the chef helped design, which will debut next week, runs entirely on green energy. 
shell synergy food truck
Credit: Courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell

Chef Ludo Lefebvre is trying to change the way food trucks are built. The French chef teamed up with Shell, which gathered together 32 university students from across the country—many of them studying to become engineers—in California for a “Hackathon”, as part of #makethefuture campaign, to build the first-ever food truck that runs on green energy, called the Shell Synergy Truck.

“It’s the first truck like this in the world,” Lefebvre tells Food & Wine. “It’s pretty amazing.”

The students used six green energy ideas provided by Shell, which they incorporated into the truck, while Lefebvre was on hand to help them plan the menu and build the kitchen. Eventually, the group settled on a crêpe menu, although Lefebvre says they had lots of different ideas, like burgers, pizza, and even crickets.

“We decided to do the crêpe because everyone loves the crêpe. You can do savory and sweet. It’s like the French taco, it’s the canvas,” he explains.

The final menu the group crafted features a buckwheat galette with gruyere cheese and ham, a dried shrimp crêpe with coconut milk, garlic, and chili, and a sweet crêpe with strawberry, raspberries, and cream.

Not only is the menu impressive, but the technology powering the food truck (which is fully mobile) is a testament to advancements in clean energy: A patio outside the food truck is tiled with Pavegen, which generates information about the energy of customers as they walk back and forth. Two GravityLights on the outside of the truck generate light using gravity. Solar panels on the roof of the truck power the kitchen appliances inside. A Capture Mobility turbine on top of the truck generates power from wind energy, while the grill uses “carbon neutral Coffee Log briquettes,” to cook the food, according to a statement from Shell.

Lefebvre says that one of the best parts of the green truck is that it doesn’t use traditional generators, which crowd the space and produce loud, distracting noise. He gives nearly all the credit to the students for the creation of the truck.

“These kids are so smart,” Lefebvre gushes. “It's cool to be around like young kids like this with ideas and energy. It’s good for me. I learned a lot from them.”

The chef says that the experience pushed him to create something that seemed impossible to create. Now, he speculates that he may use the Pavegen tiles in his own restaurants.

“I think as chefs it's our job to be responsible for the planet and try to be green as possible,” he explains. “We try to be green with the food [we use], but chefs need to be responsible for the energy we use in the kitchen.”

Lefebvre says that the truck took eight months to create and that finally seeing it in action is akin to a baby being born. Despite the difficulty of building this first-of-its-kind truck, in the future, Lefebvre hopes that more food trucks will follow the model he and Shell created and says that wants his green food truck to inspire people to create food concepts that don’t produce pollution.

The food truck will debut on October 24, where it will be operational for three days, at the Fast Company Innovation Festival.

Update, October 30, 2017: An older version of this article stated that the students came up with the green energy ideas for the food truck. In fact, Shell provided the students with green energy ideas they could incorporate into the truck.