A walk down Bent Street in the past year has presented passersby with a growing, vibrant selection of food and drink — primarily in the form of street-carts. Sol Coffee is the most recent cart to set up shop on the iconic Bent Street, serving up brewed drinks, lattes, mochas and other beverages from a solar-powered, tricycle-driven cart.
Sol Coffee offers a solar-powered alternative to the many existing coffee-sellers in the county, serving up sustainably-roasted beans with a focus on architecture and mobility. Owner Andrew Michler brought his creation to New Mexico after five years operating out of a solar-powered 1979 Toyota Dolphin in Longmont, Colo., just outside of Boulder.
As with many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic changes the long-term plans of Sol Coffee. “We really wanted to try the operation with a tricycle and see if we could find places where there’s more community or more folks are walking, so we bought a bike. But COVID happened and there was nobody out. So I didn’t quite know what we’re gonna do with it,” Michler said.
The idea for a trike-driven, solar-powered coffee stand was originally meant for Boulder. “We were going to have a contract with [Colorado University] Boulder for their football games,” said Michler. “We were thinking how do we get something through a stadium, and the idea was to have a trike and be able to go through the stadium and be able to set it up anywhere, just as a pop up. Of course, COVID canceled everything, so it was a change of plans. This is really our first attempt at using the bike in a while.”
The pandemic eventually also caused Michler and business partner Darren Wurtzburg to make a move south, with Michler settling in Santa Fe and Wurtzburg moving to Taos. After reaching a deal with the owners of the Pat Woodall Gallery, the two were able to set up their cart on the gallery’s property along Bent Street.
As an architect focused on creating more sustainable ways to live, Michler said the concept of a solar-powered, micro-scale coffee operation has “been in my heart for a long time, and Darren’s as well.”
He said Taos and Santa Fe were both ripe for the opportunity. “Taos was really one near the top of the list of the places you would like to experiment with this type of technology. The idea of having a business mobilized has long been an ambition of the building-designer. I often think about the mobility of architecture, essentially. So that’s how we treat the coffee cart — as mobile architecture.”
The solar panel roof of the cart garners approximately 300 watts of power when fully exposed to the sun, supplying roughly a quarter of the electricity needed to operate the cart, Michler said. Meanwhile, the truck — which they are currently looking to place in Santa Fe — has more panels, allowing for it to run almost entirely on solar power.
“We need to create opportunities for architecture and people to run businesses that are a little bit more flexible than this classic storefront brick-and-mortar concept.”