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World's First All Electric Ice Cream Van electrified by Edd China (includes an electric ice cream machine conversion kit too!)

Edd's Electric

Ice Cream

Soft ice cream, but without the diesel fumes!...

Since leaving Wheeler Dealers in 2016, Edd has had a chance to experiment with all kinds of things that he just didn't have time for when filming the show (including writing his first book)...

Perhaps the most important, certainly the most world changing (even in a small way), was to invent the world's first all electric ice cream van!

It started out as a bit of fun with a Guinness World Record attempt for the 'World's Fastest Electric Ice Cream Van'. Edd already has a number of Guinness World Records under his belt, starting with the 'World's Fastest Furniture' which he set quite by accident while racing 'the Casual Lofa', his driving sofa, around Donington Park race circuit clocking a speed of 87mph, way back in 1998...


How fast can an ice cream van go?...

...Fast forward to the spring of 2018 and the editor of the Guinness World Records book, Craig Glenday, had set his team on the task of defining a suitable set of rules for a new record...

A successful attempt required an ice cream van to comply with the following:-

** The van must be only powered by electric drive.

** The van must be fitted with musical chimes.

** The van must have prices displayed on the serving hatch window.

** The van must be able to produce and serve immediately before and after the speed attempt.

** The van must be able to reach a minimum speed of 70mph.

Now, bearing in mind that an ice cream van is only legally allowed to travel at a maximum of 60mph on British roads and that the traditional ice cream van shape is more of a brick than a cone, it is certainly quite a challenge!

Guinness World Records book 2019 Edition showing many of Edd China's records
Ice cream van adapters designed by Edd China for his Fastest Electric Ice Cream Van

Changing the world, one electric ice cream at a time...

Converting a brand new Mercedes Sprinter to electric drive is not a five minute job. 


Edd decided to retain the original gearbox, partly to position the new motor in a more spacious part of the engine bay but mainly to give better acceleration from the choice  of optimal gearing.


So he designed some adaptor plates to connect the gearbox to the 80kW second hand electric motor, using his trusty SolidWorks (3D CAD) and had them cut from aluminium plate using a CNC waterjet.

The AC induction motor needs a special controller/inverter to spin it around efficiently, which he mounted directly above the EV motor, keeping the high voltage electric cables as short as possible.


He then built a 360v battery pack from recycled EV cells, with its own custom programmed battery management system and charging connection, and stowed it in the rear of the van under the eutectic freezer. Simple!

OK, so there were quite a few false starts and it took many, many, many Edd-hours to get the van driving reliably with all the systems working as they should, together...

However, Edd is now pretty happy it can go fast enough, for long enough but the proof is in the pudding and we'll have to wait until this Autumn to find out if the attempt will be successful and he'll make it into the Guinness Book of World Records again!

Well, that was the van, but what about the ice cream?...

Why do we have to have diesel fumes with our ice cream?...

It's all very well using just electrons to propel the van down an airstrip at over 70mph but the rules also require that a soft ice cream be made just before and after the attempt and therein lies a much bigger problem. Or rather, an opportunity to radically transform the sixty year old technology that the mobile ice cream vendor community is so reliant on.

Back in the days when everything was in black and white, the early ice cream vans had an engine in the front, to get them to their pitch, and an engine in the rear to provide the huge power required to make freshly frozen ice cream at the pull of a lever.

In the sixties a clever chap called Bryan Whitby came up with the idea of combining those two jobs and use the motor that drives the van to also spin round the ice cream machine.


Although this was real progress at the time unfortunately, running the engine at a fast idle all day, belching out diesel fumes, was never really 'OK' and particularly in these modern, enlightened, environmentally conscious times it is no longer something society, or local Council officials, are prepared to accept.


Edd was only looking for a solution to get a world record but it soon became clear the world needed an emission free solution that would work for both the ice cream vendors in their vans and the kids and parents in the vicinity of those vans.


So, Edd set about inventing a way to make proper soft ice cream without the unwanted hydrocarbon sprinkles!... 

Edd China working on the elctric drive train for the world's first all electric ice cream van
Inside a van based Carpigiani ice cream machine

Inventing a way to make electric ice cream...

Over the years, as the ice cream van has slowly evolved, the basic principle of using the engine to also power the ice cream machine hasn't really progressed. The way it works is by adding an extra pulley to the engine, which is spun round by the engine's crankshaft pulley. An electric clutch connects that motion to a drive shaft that is routed through the bulkhead under the passenger seat area into the base of the ice cream machine.


A series of further spinning shafts, pulleys and belts transfer that motion to turn a refrigeration compressor, a fan, and the 'beaters' that stir the freezing ice cream mix. These belts and pulleys are very inefficient and produce a lot of unnecessary heat. The diesel engine itself is very inefficient too but the fuel is relatively cheap so a days running cost of between £10 and £25 doesn't make that much of a dent in a day's profits.


The refrigeration technology used is also rather dated and the machine's overall design was conceived many years ago without the benefit of the knowledge we have today. It worked, so why fix it?


All of these issues presented an opportunity for an industry outsider like Edd to look at things with fresh eyes and really question some of the rational used.


Edd's first job was to remove as many inefficiencies as possible from the overall system and then see if the component count could be reduced. Less parts would mean less space and less weight; leaving valuable capacity for the battery pack.


After much deliberation and a lot of CAD (both Cardboard (thanks #BOM) and Computer Aided Design) Edd managed to squeeze all of the parts he needed to spin the machine electrically, inside the frame of the Carpigiani machine itself, leaving the pedestal base completely free for all of the batteries that would be needed to make it run all day. 

The future is electric ice cream!...

Having got the prototype to work brilliantly, just in time for an ice cream van convention in Crewe in October 2018, Edd now knew he had cracked the problem as far as the record attempt was concerned but the project was now far bigger than that.


Edd wanted to turn his prototype into a kit that would make it possible to convert all of the ice cream vans still in use, however old, so that no-one would ever have to consume diesel-fume-infused soft ice cream ever again!


Many months of long days and late nights in the workshop followed and with further help from his refrigerant engineer friend John, they managed to add even greater efficiencies to both the system and to the ease at which the conversion 'cassette' can be retro-fitted.


Early testing has proven that the electric version is far more efficient than the standard diesel driven machine and will run quieter and cooler, while making more ice cream per hour so should be a win win for everyone involved.

Edd is already taking pre-orders from interested customers and full production will start in the next few months in time for the rush of installations expected during the mobilers usual down season which normally begins around the end of September.

Who would have thought that going for another Guinness World Record attempt would lead to such an industry disrupting innovation?

Watch this space to follow the progress of Edd's record attempt and look out for freshly made electric ice cream near you, soon... 


Electric Ice cream logo w colour website
16. Edd China serves an 'electric' soft ice cream at Fully Charged Show from his all electric ice cream van
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