Updated: See photos of the Frito-Lay all-electric truck

MANHATTAN. At a media ride-and-drive event here today on windy Pier 54,which juts into the Hudson River, Pepsico’s Frito Lay North American Div. revealed the first five units in what it said will “ultimately be the largest fleet of commercial all-electric trucks in North America.” The initial five Smith Newton plug-in battery-electric powered trucks will enter Frito Lay snack route service in New York City this month.

The Smith Newton trucks, assembled by Smith Electric Vehicles at its plant in Kansas City, generate zero tailpipe emissions and operate for up to 100 miles on a 6- to 8-hour charge single charge, said Bryan Hansel, CEO of Smith. He pointed out that the Smith Newton is offered in GVWR ratings from Class 4-6. They are powered by an Enova drive system that includes a 120-kw induction motor and lithium-ion iron phosphate batteries. (Hear Hansel discuss the all-electric truck)

Hansel told FleetOwner that the Smith Newton not only eliminates fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions at the tailpipe, but also reduce noise pollution. That makes them less taxing for drivers to operate and also allows the vehicle to operate in areas with tight noise restrictions on commercial vehicles. (Read more about Smith Electric Vehicles)

This initial rollout of the Frito Lay trucks was funded through a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. (See photos of the all-electric truck)

However, Pepsico is not adding the trucks to its Frito Lay fleet just because of that funding. Rather, it is making the move to all-electric local delivery trucks to save fuel, reduce air and noise pollution and also to reduce operating costs, Mike O’Connell, director of fleet capability for the Frito Lay North American Div, told FleetOwner. He noted that the purchase reflects Pepsico corporate goals to both enhance operational efficiency and to reduce its environmental impact. (See video of O'Connell discussing the truck)

O’Connell said that by year’s end, Frito Lay will be deploying 21 Smith Newtons. He said Frito Lay projects it will add another 155 of the trucks in 2011—which will make the division the operator of the largest fleet of all-electric trucks in North America. He told FleetOwner some of the other markets the trucks will first be deployed in include Ft. Worth, TX, Columbus, OH, and and Canada—“and we will expand nationally [in the U.S.] beyond those areas,” he noted.

"Frito Lay has implemented bold goals for reducing our use of key resources such as fuel to ultimately help us reduce our overall environmental impact," O'Connell remarked. "There are real economic and environmental benefits to electric trucks. Once the planned 176 electric trucks are deployed, we will eliminate the need for 500,000 gallons of fuel annually.” He added that each of the trucks emits 75% less greenhouse gases than a conventional diesel truck in Frito Lay route service.

"Frito Lay's truck program is a significant step forward in the advancement of electric vehicles," noted Smith’s Hansel. "Businesses will improve their environmental impact and see cost savings with the reduction of fossil fuels. More importantly, the insights gained operating in urban environments will be invaluable in extending electric vehicle technology to consumer markets in the future."