Beaulieu ran various commuter and onsite transportation programs at Genentech for 10 years before being tapped in 2018 to manage the company’s commercial sales fleet.  -  Photo: Genentech

Beaulieu ran various commuter and onsite transportation programs at Genentech for 10 years before being tapped in 2018 to manage the company’s commercial sales fleet.

Photo: Genentech

Aleece Beaulieu wasn’t sure where her passion for sports would take her career. In high school and college, she ran sports camps and taught basketball and T-ball to kids which fed her interest in the psychology of motivation and managing social change. This propelled her to get a degree in psychology from UC Santa Cruz.

But a job in fleet management? That started based on location — she grew up in the Bay Area, in “the backyard” of Genentech’s headquarters. 

After graduating college, she got a job working for biotech pioneer Genentech as a front desk receptionist. Soon, a position opened on the transportation team managing the commuter program and on-campus transportation operations. 

And this is where her passion for social impact was operationalized. Beaulieu said a career with Genentech in transportation allowed her to stay connected with the local community, improve the quality of life for employees who rely on commuter services, and was consistent with her education in social psychology. 

“(The position) played to my strengths,” Beaulieu said. “I like how things move. I like the puzzle of scheduling. Managing the day-to-day operations of the large company’s commuter program pushed me to ask critical questions like, ‘How can we maximize our resources, reduce our overall carbon footprint, and create a better quality of life for my colleagues and those in the local community’?”

The question of how to enhance the quality of life in partnership with the local community is especially critical to the biotechnology company, said Beaulieu, as their offices are located next to San Francisco International Airport in the South San Francisco Bay Area, which is heavily congested with traffic. 

When Beaulieu assumed her role on the transportation operations team, she set to work to increase utilization of Genentech’s commuter program and find additional locations within the Bay Area where employees faced arduous commutes to service. 

“We figured if we could fill a commuter bus and it made four full trips throughout the Bay Area, that's 200 fewer employee cars on the road,” she said. 

Beaulieu ran various commuter and onsite transportation programs at Genentech for 10 years before being tapped in 2018 to manage the company’s commercial sales fleet. Then, in early 2020, leadership decided to transition the company’s field fleets from driver-owned vehicles eligible for reimbursement to a completely company-owned fleet. 

At the same time, the company was ramping up its efforts to transition to electric vehicles. Beaulieu was in charge of navigating both of these important shifts and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bringing with it supply chain issues and inflation. 

Aligning EV Goals

Transitioning to EVs during the COVID-19 pandemic presented unique challenges. Beaulieu had to manage a spike in fuel and vehicle costs alongside chronic production delays while collaborating to enhance safety for the field employees who still needed to be out and about in the community to do their work. All the while, the effort to help employees make the jump to electric vehicles continued. 

“Given our aggressive sustainability targets, we had to push forward and get started sooner rather than later,” Beaulieu said. 

Genentech is a member of EV100, a global initiative of 127 companies formed five years ago to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles. 

Genentech was one of the first companies that signed onto EV100 in 2019, and at that time established a goal of transitioning the fleet to electric plug-in by 2030. Around this time, Genentech’s parent company Roche set global goals to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero no later than 2050, impacting much more than just the fleet. 

“When Roche made the commitment to achieve true zero emissions, it helped to further motivate employees to support the transition to EVs,” she said. “We were able to go to people and say, ‘Hey, we're all in here on our sustainability goals, and you can play a big role in supporting this effort.’”

As of 2023, the team has successfully transitioned 34% of sales fleet vehicles to EVs or PHEVs. 

Beaulieu is realizing her lifelong passion for social impact at Genentech. Her position allows her to stay connected with the local community and improve the quality of life for employees who rely on commuter services.  -  Photo: Genentech

Beaulieu is realizing her lifelong passion for social impact at Genentech. Her position allows her to stay connected with the local community and improve the quality of life for employees who rely on commuter services.

Photo: Genentech

EV Readiness

To manage the transition to EVs, Beaulieu’s team organized a comprehensive EV readiness survey designed for the company’s sales force that considers employees’ living situations, detailed mileage scenarios, overnight trips, weather, and availability of public charging. The survey assigns points based on answers. The greater the points, the stronger the candidates are for EVs. 

Location is a big factor. Unsurprisingly, Genentech’s electric fleet is concentrated in California, with additional pockets of vehicles across the U.S. In places like Texas, extreme summers degrade battery range, which means drivers would have to stop to charge on long trips, like from Dallas to Austin. That downtime eats into a workday that would tilt the scales against an EV. 

Drivers give high grades for the electric models, but EVs’ range and availability of public chargers that work consistently have been a challenge for some. In some cases, employees have found that an EV won’t work for their driving pattern, but they’re willing to switch to a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV). Employees who order a plug-in vehicle do have the option to install a subsidized Level 2 charger at home. 

The trick is to minimize the use of the internal combustion engine (ICE). 

“We recognize that a fully electric vehicle may not allow you to get your job done,” she said. “If you accepted the subsidy for the at-home charger, we still want you to maximize your electric driving miles.”

EV Process Improvements

When it comes to EVs and employee onboarding, particularly with online selector lists run by fleet management companies, Beaulieu has some suggestions for improvement. She thinks selectors could be clearer upfront about which models are electric to prevent ordering confusion. 

She remembers the first employee EV order in 2017. The employee, who lived in an apartment with no place to charge it, didn’t realize the vehicle was electric. That confusion continues: last year some employees ordered the new, all-electric Toyota BZ4X model thinking that it was a Toyota hybrid. 

Beaulieu now requires employees to verify that they know they’re ordering an electric vehicle. A dynamic selector that shows a set of ICE vehicles and then a comparable set of hybrid and EV models would also help, she suggests.

The process in general has improved, as employees are now more aware of the EVs on the market and the company’s big-picture sustainability goals. 

When Genentech started its EV program, the decision was made to subsidize at-home charging instead of using public infrastructure

“Investing in at-home charging was absolutely the right move,” she said. “Because we cannot control what's going on with public infrastructure.”

The company has installed 475 home chargers to date. Yes, there are minor issues with flower beds being dug up for trenching, “but no issues that can’t be overcome,” she said. “Knock on wood, we're doing okay.”

About the author
Chris Brown

Chris Brown

Associate Publisher

As associate publisher of Automotive Fleet, Auto Rental News, and Fleet Forward, Chris Brown covers all aspects of fleets, transportation, and mobility.

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