Frito-Lay Replaces All Diesel Vehicles at Facility With Cleaner Tech

Frito-Lay Modesto
Frito-Lay via YouTube

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Frito-Lay has largely completed the transformation of a snack food facility in California to use zero-emission and near-zero-emission technologies for production and transportation.

The company has replaced all of the diesel vehicles at the Modesto, Calif., site. It is now using 12 Crown lithium-ion electric forklifts and three BYD yard trucks for internal operations at the 500,000-square-foot factory, and six 220EV Peterbilt electric box trucks to distribute snacks to local retailers. A fleet of 38 Volvo VNL compressed natural gas tractors is handling larger local and regional hauls.

Later this year, Frito-Lay is scheduled to take delivery of 15 electric Tesla Semi rigs, also for regional hauling.

The company, a division of PepsiCo Inc., is using the factory to prototype greenhouse gas emission reduction technologies as it looks to lower its global carbon footprint.

“We are using Modesto as our proof of concept. It is showing us how we put this all together and make it robust and reliable so it can meet the needs of the business,” said Steve Hanson, senior director of fleet operations, engineering and sustainability for Frito-Lay.

PepsiCo wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% by 2030. The beverage and snack company has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040.

Frito-Lay estimates that the change in fleet composition has slashed greenhouse gas pollution by 53%, or 2,790 metric tons of GHG emissions. The plant also is now using only renewable electricity through a combination of renewable electricity certificates and on-site generation, the company said.


A BYD electric yard tractor at a ChargePoint charging station. (Frito-Lay)

With the addition of the Tesla trucks, Frito-Lay said it would have cut GHG emissions by 5,480 metric tons annually, and it would have eliminated the use of diesel fuel from its Modesto fleet operations. That is the equivalent of removing nearly 13 million miles driven by passenger cars, the company said.

While many companies are starting to test electric trucks, Frito-Lay’s Modesto factory changes represent a model for companies looking to remove carbon emissions from their supply chain, said Bill Van Amburg, executive vice president of Calstart, a Pasadena, Calif.-based nonprofit clean transportation industry consortium that has provided consulting for the project.

“This is not just another on-the-road truck test. It is looking at the entire facility,” Van Amburg said.

Frito-Lay had to consider how to include backup power for the production plant, how to use electric infrastructure to support a range of charging needs for forklifts, yard tractors, medium-duty delivery trucks and Class 8 vehicles.

Other companies will look at the project to learn how to scale up electric truck infrastructure and deal with the different duty cycles of a range of commercial vehicles, he said.


One of Frito-Lay's Peterbilt 220EV electric trucks. (Frito-Lay)

“There is a very strong interest in sustainable practices from consumer goods companies, so this effort is significant, but it’s also just the beginning of many like it,” said Mike Ramsey, automotive and smart mobility analyst at Gartner Inc.


It also will be one of the first high-profile demonstrations of Tesla’s electric truck, a program that is two years behind schedule.

But Ramsey expects the company will start to make deliveries to companies such as Frito-Lay this year.

“Tesla has shown a willingness to hand-build vehicles when needed to meet deadlines, and it’s possible that they would do something like that to fill some customer orders,” Ramsey said.

The $30.8 million Frito-Lay project is a partnership with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and uses a grant from California Climate Investments, the state’s cap-and trade program to reduce carbon emissions.

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