‘Late Empire Sort of Stuff’: Wonder Faces Backlash Over Environmental Impact of Vans

By and large, the residents of the northern New Jersey suburbs where Wonder delivers agree that the well-funded startup’s food tastes great.

What they can’t agree on is whether having hundreds of Mercedes diesel vans idling curbside each night while Wonder employees prep meals is a good idea at a time when most experts agree climate change is fast becoming an existential crisis.

A story published in yesterday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal details the bickering that has broken out amongst residents of South Orange and Maplewood, New Jersey, about the omnipresent vans zig-zagging through their towns each night.

On the one hand, some feel the Wonder trucks are an unnecessary and carbon-emitting extravagance.

“There’s a stigma of calling the Wonder truck and having them idle outside your house for the decadent purpose of making you dinner in a truck,” resident Will Meyer told the Journal. “It feels like this is late empire sort of stuff.”

And then there are those who don’t see a problem with the trucks.

“It doesn’t bother me,” said Lisa Bressler, who didn’t see the trucks being much different from Amazon and UPS trucks driving around town. “I guess I like unnecessary luxuries.”

For my own part, the trucks seem a bit out of step with efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of food delivery. Serve, a maker of sidewalk delivery robots, asks on their Twitter page why should we use a two-ton car to deliver a two-pound burrito. It’s a legitimate question that makes me wonder if a three or four-ton diesel van sitting outside my home cooking food for 20 minutes is a good idea.

Ok sure, so maybe a couple of hundred vans probably don’t make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but what about a scaled-up, USA-wide Wonder? The company has grand plans to eventually take this to cities across the country and if it’s as disruptive as Marc Lore thinks it is, it could essentially reinvent food delivery. In a scenario like that, we’re looking at tens of thousands of Wonder vans driving around every night and sitting curbside.

Wonder’s Scott Hilton told the Journal they are evaluating electric vehicles, so maybe by the time the company rolls out across the country, they’ll have this thing figured out. But for now and the foreseeable future, residents of this New Jersey suburb will continue to debate the impact of Wonder’s vans on the environment.

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