Electric Vehicles

Frito-Lay & Smith Electrify Medium -Duty Trucks

July 2011, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Lauren Fletcher - Also by this author

Frito-Lay will be operating 176 medium-duty electric box trucks purchased from Smith Electric Vehicles by mid-year.
Frito-Lay will be operating 176 medium-duty electric box trucks purchased from Smith Electric Vehicles by mid-year.

At a Glance

Benefits Frito-Lay is achieving through use of Smith Electric box trucks include:
● Reduced maintenance and repair expenses.
● Increased driver morale.
● Positive public interest.






The “Promise of PepsiCo” is the sustainability vision and strategy used by PepsiCo and Frito-Lay. One of the strategy’s key planks is fleet operations and the goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) impact and fossil fuel usage.

“We’ve set some aggressive internal goals of a 50-percent reduction by 2020, so we study the people, processes, and technology in the industry to optimize and reach those goals,” said Mike O’Connell, senior director of fleet for Frito-Lay. “We studied the technology arena, and electric vehicles or alternative fuel is something we looked at.”

Frito-Lay operates the seventh largest private fleet in the U.S., consisting of approximately 17,000 delivery vehicles. Around 1,000 tractor-trailers are used over the road. The total truck count for trailers and trucks is approximately 22,000 vehicles. The fleet runs mostly on diesel, and on the electric side will operate 176 medium-duty electric box trucks purchased from Smith Electric Vehicles by mid-year.

Working with Smith Electric

All of Frito-Lay’s medium-duty electric box trucks are Smith Electric Vehicles (SEV), built on the same chassis. According to O’Connell, a few different vehicle designs are used in New York and other locations, but the changes are mainly on the box of the truck, while the chassis remains the same.

Frito-Lay has been working with SEV for a few years, starting from vehicle inception. “When Brian Hansel and the team at Smith decided to come to the U.S. and bring the product here, we were first in line to meet with them and we partnered with them,” O’Connell said. “We looked at several different alternate solutions. We’re utilizing natural gas for our tractors, aerodynamic fairings, and a whole host of other projects that help us improve fuel economy. Electric vehicles just happen to be one of the bigger initiatives we’re taking on.”

Understanding All-New Challenges

Incorporating the electric vehicle into the Frito-Lay fleet didn’t present too many new challenges versus a typical new-vehicle introduction; however, it had a few unique differences.

“When we introduce a new vehicle into our fleet, there are usually many kinds of challenges,” O’Connell explained. “These include driver and mechanic training, fueling, procedures and policies, etc. It’s different from the standpoint that it’s electric. When you talk about fueling, you’re talking about plugging in, not going to a pump.”

O’Connell noted that at first, people believe an electric vehicle denotes a big difference.

“It definitely is, but it’s not a lot different from a normal procedure or policy we would do for any new vehicle we introduce,” he said. “We teach drivers how to plug it in and what to watch out for.”

Frito-Lay also runs its drivers through the control panel on the vehicle, ensuring drivers know how to locate all gauges, light switches, etc.

“We teach drivers the differences associated with the cab of the vehicle, how to drive it, and how to ensure they know how to deal with all the circumstances. From that aspect, it hasn’t been a lot different than introducing a new vehicle into the fleet,” O’Connell said.

The biggest specific challenge is setting up the charging infrastructure.

“You don’t go to a fuel island or a gas station down the road and fuel. You would actually plug in at our distribution center, which would be kind of like putting fuel at the distribution center. That’s a little bit different for us. It is leading-edge technology, so we’re learning a lot about that in partnership with Smith, but frankly it’s working extremely well and our drivers love it,” he said.


  1. 1. Jimmy osborne [ March 29, 2015 @ 12:19PM ]

    Do you have any older frito vans for sale thanks


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