September 14, 2023  

Go behind the wheel with PepsiCo’s first Tesla Semi driver

Eric Bettencourt shares his experience piloting the new electric truck and how he’s training more drivers as PepsiCo expands its emission-reducing fleet.

One of the perks of Eric Bettencourt’s daily route as an Over-the-Road driver for Frito-Lay in Northern California is the postcard views. The rolling mountains of the Diablo Range stretch for miles in either direction as he travels from Modesto to Alameda. The downtown San Francisco skyline pokes through the fog as he crosses the Bay Bridge toward Brisbane.

But recently, Eric has become the attraction. He’ll often look out his window to see people pulling out their phones to snap photos. “Everybody’s very excited to see me,” Eric says. As a driver of the new, all-electric Tesla Semi, he understands most people haven’t seen anything like his truck before. The hood with its ski-jump angles and curves that rival a racecar are hard to miss — it’s an attention-grabbing vehicle.

Tesla Electric Semi Truck

PepsiCo unveiled the world’s first fleet of electric Tesla Semi trucks in December 2022.

Eric was the first person at Frito-Lay to officially take a Tesla Semi on the road, making the 220-mile trip from the company’s Modesto facility to Reno, Nevada, for the unveiling in December. “It’s a really fun vehicle to drive,” says Eric, who has been with Frito-Lay for 22 years. “I appreciate that PepsiCo and Frito-Lay have put them in our hands.”

The introduction of Tesla Semis in Modesto was part of the site’s milestone sustainability project, which included replacing diesel vehicles with zero-emission or near-zero emission alternatives. Frito-Lay also built alternative fueling and electric charging infrastructure and installed renewable energy generation and storage at the 500,000-square-foot site, all of which has resulted in a 91% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from direct fleet operations.

Investing in renewable energy is part of the company’s pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) transformation, which includes a target to reach net zero emissions by 2040. Those efforts span the globe. The Tesla Semis in PepsiCo’s U.S. fleet collectively traveled nearly 680,000 zero-emission miles through the end of August. In the U.K., PepsiCo is powering more than 1 million miles of truck journeys each year with used cooking oil. In Brazil, 15% of vehicles in the fleet run on biofuels. In Australia, the company is piloting a hydrogen fuel cell truck.

It’s a really fun vehicle to drive. I appreciate that PepsiCo and Frito-Lay have put them in our hands.


While switching to electric power had some noticeable differences, Eric has enjoyed the experience. “The trucks are so quiet,” he explains. But they’re still powerful enough to pull any load. “You press the pedal and it just goes,” Eric says. “There’s no shifting, no rough transition between gears — even going up hills.”

Now that Eric has had a few months on the road with the Tesla Semi, he’s also training other drivers, helping them adjust to unique features like a steering wheel positioned in the center of the cab. He says his colleagues quickly see the appeal of the new trucks. “Once I train people, they don’t want to drive anything else,” Eric says.

Eric feels the same way. Driving a more sustainable electric vehicle is how he helps PepsiCo positively impact the planet and the California community where he works. And Eric sees how he’s also improving the environment much closer to his home — a way to act with integrity. “I have kids and I have grandkids, so I want to see the best for them,” Eric says. “That’s why sustainability is so important. I want to do what I can to help them live a happy, fun life.”