Aside from the announcement of a $3 million campaign that aims to obliterate horrific-sounding “rat reservoirs” across the five boroughs, New Yorkers have been blessed with additional good news over the past few days: Not only will city streets soon be home to fewer disease-carrying vermin, but they’ll also, starting this summer, be getting a small army of sleek new food carts that will be powered by the sun instead of polluting gas.

Food carts, much like oversized rodents, are a staple of the Big Apple streetscape. But whereas one is supremely unappetizing (and liable to cause even the most jaded New Yorker to jump five feet in the air and run across the street), the other attracts lines of folks, both locals and out-of-towners, all looking to fill up on street food staples such as hot dogs, soft pretzels, kebobs, falafel, tacos and halal chicken and rice along with decidedly more upscale new additions like lobster rolls and artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches.

Street food, however, is a dirty business — and we’re not talking about the sanitary conditions, the hot dog water or what can happen to a white blouse when one gets overzealous with the mustard. In addition to being too noisy and rather expensive to maintain and operate, these grub-peddling mobile kiosks, powered by diesel generators and incorporating propane grills, generate a huge amount of air-polluting exhaust. Very much out of sync with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s aggressive air quality-improving, climate change-combating goals, food carts have long been overdue for a drastic makeover.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, a makeover is what they’re very much getting thanks to a new pilot partnership between Queens-based vending cart company MOVE Systems and the New York City Council.

Powered by photovoltaic panels, rechargeable batteries and compressed natural gas, a fleet of 100 newfangled, eco-friendly street carts developed by MOVE are due to hit city streets after Memorial Day weekend.

In total, 500 solar-powered food carts will be rolled out by the summer of 2016.

Dubbed MRV100 Hybrids, the units are still very much street food carts. Compact (they’re 5-feet-wide-by-10-feet-long) and versatile, their exteriors, for the most part, resemble the traditional metal “street meat” dispensaries that New Yorkers are accustomed to. The key difference, in addition to superior refrigeration and additional restaurant-grade kitchen space, are the onboard solar-battery-natural gas electrical systems, which, according to MOVE, reduce generator noise by half and air quality-compromising emissions by two-thirds.

A report released by New York-based Energy Vision that compares the environmental impact of traditional food carts and the MRV100 Hybrid found that each single MOVE-designed unit reduces climate change-causing emissions by 60 percent. Smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions would be cut by 95 percent — the equivalent of removing 200 cars from the road.

The MRV100 Hybrid, an eco-friendly street food cart by MOVE Systems

Rendering: MOVE Systems

“What’s the quality of the air I’m breathing? What’s the quality of the food I’m eating? These are the problems we’re trying to solve,” James Meeks of MOVE explains to the Journal. “I hope there will be an opportunity for even more culinary options than exist today.”

Permit-holding street vendors will be able to swap out their old carts for the new ones free of charge through a leasing program. However, considering that there in the ballpark of 8,000 food trucks and carts spread out across the five boroughs, only a small number of interested vendors will be able to participate in the 500-cart pilot initiative.

The Journal notes that 100 of the MRV100 Hybrid units will be reserved for disabled veterans working as licensed street food vendors. For non-veterans, the carts, which are also equipped with a state-of-the-art point-of-sale (POS system) developed by First Data to help streamline transactions, will be leased in a first-come, first-served manner.

"Small business owners like food cart vendors, are the backbone of New York City’s economy and the fabric of our neighborhoods,” notes City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in a press statement.” I look forward to seeing the results of this pilot and thank MOVE Systems for this important effort."

Via [WSJ] via [The Verge]

Related on MNN:

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.