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UK’s first solar-powered ice cream van opens for business

England’s hottest summer on record may be the result of climate change but the wall-to-wall sunshine has actually helped one firm go greener.

Exmoor-based Styles Ice Cream has developed a prototype van that uses roof-mounted solar panels instead of diesel generators
Exmoor-based Styles Ice Cream has developed a prototype van that uses roof-mounted solar panels instead of diesel generators

Exmoor-based Styles Ice Cream has developed a prototype van that uses roof-mounted solar panels to charge a bank of batteries that keep the freezers, fridges and internal lighting running, replacing the diesel generators commonly used.

Developed for use at outdoor events but also at fixed sites, the prototype initially featured a back-up LPG generator as a last resort but Styles founder David Baker – who developed the van with the help of solar experts – has now installed extra batteries. On sunny days the batteries need just 2.5 hours to charge 100% and provide power for a full day – and overnight too.

The former sheep farmer, who started the ice cream business near Minehead 30 years ago with his wife Sue, developed the patented technology to help address air quality concerns. “Diesel is becoming increasingly stigmatised as a dirty fuel and the last thing people want to be doing is eating ice cream in a cloud of fumes,” said Baker.

He added: “I could also see the time coming when show organisers would insist on food retailers using far cleaner energy sources, so a year ago I began to combine all the available technologies into a system that was unique and patentable.”

As well as cutting pollution – and noise pollution too – the technology is also cutting costs. Baker said he’s seeing savings of around £15-18 a day as well as the cost of plugging in at showgrounds, which can be as much as £150. He’s also saving a further £20 a week from not needing to plug the vehicle in at home.

Baker is now planning to roll out the technology across the 11-strong ice cream van fleet while also switching to cleaner energy vehicles in the longer term with the help of a £1m investment.

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Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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