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From left: view of the cab; Erika “driving” the truck; view from the front. Photos courtesy of Isaac Griffith-Onen.

On December 15th Undersecretary of Energy Barbara Kates-Garnick cut the ribbon for 8 new vehicles in Frito Lay’s electric truck fleet at the distribution center in Braintree, MA.  This year, the company increased its electric truck fleet to 176 vehicles, making it the largest in the country.  The greenhouse gas emissions and fuel cost savings these trucks produce make them a sound advancement in environmentally friendly trucking.  Frito Lay drivers rave about the new green trucks; the vehicles are very quiet, almost in audible.  One employee, Ed St. Onge, told me that the trucks help with brand recognition and that people in cities approach the nearly silent running vehicles to ask questions.  The trucks also make more a more pleasant trucking experience because they do not use any gasoline, and therefore do not smell as pungent.

The trucks run entirely on electricity, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by about 75%, compared to a gasoline vehicle.  They are equipped with two large battery packs each containing 24 specially designed 12-volt batteries.  The batteries last 5-7 years, but the manufacturer can remotely detect if there is a problem with the battery before that.  If there is a problem, the company contacts Frito Lay with the exact truck information and details on the problem.  Braking regenerates the batteries, making the trucks ideal for stop-and-go traffic patterns.  The batteries last about 60 highway miles or 100 city miles and take about 5 hours to fully recharge.  Most trips Frito Lay makes are within 50 miles of the distribution center, making these vehicles ideal transporters.

At about $200,000 per vehicle, the trucks cost twice as much as a normal truck. However, Steve Hanson, Frito Lay Senior Sustainability Manager, says that the savings in fuel costs justifies the up-front difference within just 3-4 years.  While a diesel truck generates approximately $50-60 in daily maintenance costs, its electric counterpart only costs $6 per day.  Mr. Hanson said that part of Frito Lay’s motivation in kicking off this “green fleet” is in anticipation of future environmental standards becoming stricter.  Rather than new regulations forcing an abrupt change, Frito Lay has spent the past 7 years testing different green transportation technologies to determine which yielded the highest returns for the company.

From left: view of the dashboard; view of driver side battery pack; LED headlights. Photos courtesy of Isaac Griffith-Onen.

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