Grocery store on (EV) wheels
A startup fresh out of Michigan Central's new tech incubator is using EV technology to give food-insecure residents easier access to healthy foods.
Why it matters: Fresh, local produce is not easily accessible for many residents — either because they lack reliable transportation or because of proximity to a grocery store.
- The EV's lower fuel and maintenance costs could make distribution cheaper for local farmers.
Driving the news: Known as Veggie Express, the EV set up shop at Clement Kern Gardens Apartments near Corktown Monday, offering residents local produce, bread and other staples at prices described as wholesale.
Context: Planted Detroit, a cutting-edge indoor farm and food delivery company, just announced it's closing due to cost and funding challenges.
What they're saying: "You see these prices? We can't go to the market to get that," Dnisha Brannon told Axios while shopping at Veggie Express.
- Older adults who live at the apartments and stopped by the cart yesterday told us they appreciate the easy access because getting to the store can be hard.
By the numbers: Bananas, carrots and lemons sell for 25 cents each; potatoes and onions are 50 cents; and apples, bell peppers, zucchini and other items sell for 75 cents.
- Six eggs sell for $1.75.
- Prices are marked up slightly above wholesale, usually by rounding up to the nearest 25-cent increment. The business model also involves a $150-$200 fee — which can be split evenly among shoppers — to summon the EV to neighborhoods or events.
State of play: The project is a collaboration between local business Pluck.eco and the EV company BILITI — two startups of Newlab, which recently set up its local headquarters at the renovated Book Depository on the Michigan Central campus.
- The Veggie Express EV lives at Newlab, where it was modified at wood, metal and electronic shops, Pluck.eco founder Chening Duker tells Axios.
- Pluck.eco delivers produce from more than 40 local farms.
- Future pilots with autonomous vehicles are being contemplated.
Between the lines: In preparation for Monday's produce sale, Duker left his house on the city's east side at 1am to begin picking up food at different citywide locations. The eggs are delivered from Sam's Club.
- Veggie Express first surveyed the apartments' residents about what they would want to buy.
What's next: Veggie Express returns to Clement Kern Gardens Aug. 21 and 28.
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