Electric and autonomous trucking company Final drive is expanding to the U.K., representing the latest in a line of European market expansions.
Einride said that it’s looking to target the 1.6 billion tonnes of goods that are transported by road freight in the U.K each year. Its first U.K. deployment will be in partnership with PepsiCo snack-food subsidiary Walkers, which will use Einride’s trucks and platform to deliver goods between the cities of Leicester and Coventry, which it says will help it cut fossil fuel-powered transport by 250,000 miles each year.
PepsiCo’s initial roll out will be more of a “suck it and see” over a three-year pilot before it commits to any route expansions.
“With this initial deployment, we’re looking forward to better understanding the potential role electric trucks can play in our transport operations,” Archana Jagannathan, PepsiCo UK’s head of sustainability, said in a statement.
PepsiCo is a major coup as a launch partner, though Einride has struck other big-name commercial deals elsewhere including Electrolux in Germany and GE Appliances in the U.S., the latter serving as a pilot partner for Einride’s fully autonomous pods (more on that below).
Over time, Einride says that it’s planning to establish a “freight mobility grid” spanning some of the most heavily trafficked freight routes, starting in the Midlands and extending through many of the major conurbations including Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and London.
Founded out of Sweden in 2016, Einride garnered attention in the European mobility space for its cabless self-driving cargo truck that can be controlled remotely by human operators when needed.
Although these “pods” are being piloted commercially in Sweden and the U.S., regulatory obstacles mean that Einride has had to expand its scope to include human-driven electric trucks too as part of a transitionary period, backed by its Saga platform that helps its freight and logistics customers manage and optimize their fleets. This is what PepsiCo will be using as part of its Einride partnership, kicking off with two connected electric trucks that will be deployed in the Midlands starting in July.
“As Einride expands its presence and customer list in the U.K., it is looking forward to finding innovative local partners — both with regards to customers and legislation — who are ready to implement projects with Einride’s autonomous technology,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Einride plans to explore autonomous operations in a stepwise approach, with a focus on fenced areas at customer sites, or within an authorised project on public roads with lower complexity — for example, between a production site and warehouse or distribution centre.”
Einride had already expanded into the U.S. back in 2021while in recent months it has rolled in to Germany and the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) region, with plans in place to target Norway this year too. Its latest expansion comes hot on the heels of a major U.K. government initiative designed to decarbonize the country’s freight transport across road, rail and sea, having recently launched a new £7 million fund for SMEs working to make domestic freight cleaner.
While Einride isn’t one of the beneficiaries of this Freight Innovation Fund (FIF), the company is fresh from a $500 million fundraise from a slew of investors, including $300 million in debt-financing from Barclays Europe that Einride has been using to bolster its vehicle fleet as it continues to expand its footprint across Europe and North America.