EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: Genentech Powers Electric Bus Program with Innovation and Partnerships

November 4, 2020

Photo: ACT News

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An ACT News Virtual Executive Interview with Lyndel Fusello, transportation program manager for bus operations, on the driving force behind the electric bus program at Genentech.

Genentech is a biotechnology company dedicated to the pursuit of groundbreaking science to discover and develop life-changing medicines for people around the world. These include the first targeted antibody for cancer, and the first medicine for primary progressive multiple sclerosis. As one of San Francisco’s largest employers, Genentech created a robust transportation network of shared and sustainable commute options for their employees, including commuter buses, carpools, vanpools, and a fleet of ferries. The first battery electric bus was introduced in 2018, with plans for the entire fleet to be electric by 2025.

Lyndel will be participating in a thought-provoking plenary with fleet executives discussing their forward-looking stance on the “new normal” for urban mobility, taking place at ACT Virtual on November 10. 

ACT News caught up with Lyndel to learn how running clean, electric buses is a big part of the equation for Genentech on the path to sustainability.

ACT News: You will be participating in an upcoming ACT Virtual panel on November 10, “Setting a New Bar for Sustainability in Urban Mobility.” Please tell us some of what you plan on sharing with attendees related to how you are seeing the urban mobility landscape evolve.

“In the upcoming panel, I will share how we at Genentech have altered our services to operate safely under COVID-19 restrictions.”

Lyndel Fusello: As everyone is aware, the world has taken many unprecedented turns in 2020. The pandemic has unfortunately shifted many people back into their personal vehicles, making it more important than ever to show riders that safe, reliable and sustainable transportation is still available to them. In the upcoming panel, I will share how we at Genentech have altered our services to operate safely under COVID-19 restrictions and how the pandemic has affected our long-term electrification and sustainability plans. 

ACT News: Genentech began operating battery electric commuter buses to shuttle employees to and from the South San Francisco corporate campus in 2018. How is the deployment of electric buses addressing Genentech sustainability goals, and what are the plans to expand EV bus service? 

Lyndel Fusello: Genentech has established many aggressive goals towards reducing C02 emissions and sustainability is a driving force for both the company and our transportation team. To contribute to these goals, our team has a keen focus on getting as many people out of their cars as possible to reduce traffic congestion and improve employee’s productivity and wellbeing while commuting to and from work. The addition of electric buses takes this one step further, by allowing us to provide an environmentally clean and quiet method for achieving these outcomes.

“Sustainability is a driving force for both the company and our transportation team.”

Our team has a very ambitious electrification roadmap that includes transitioning 80-100% of our bus fleet from diesel to electric by 2025 (currently we are at ~36%). To support this vision, we have already built out our bus yard with the appropriate infrastructure to accommodate for full electrification, and plan to convert an additional parking lot to support any future electric fleet growth. In addition to our bus fleet, we have committed to converting our entire field sales fleet of ~1300 passenger vehicles to PHEV or BEV by 2030, and replacing half of our 30+ medium duty campus service vehicles to PHEV or BEV by 2030. We have formalized this strategy by participating in The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative.

ACT News: Running cleaner electric buses is a key part of the equation on the path to zero emissions, but Genentech has also successfully optimized bus routes and partnered with other companies to further environmental goals. What are some of the milestones that have been achieved?

Lyndel Fusello: Optimization and efficiency are key in our bus service planning. We have set some firm standards for route and run utilization and pride ourselves on running consistently full buses. To do this, we not only evaluate our ridership daily and make adjustments, but also have launched unique programs to contribute to high utilization; one of these being our Bus Share Program. The Bus Share Program allows us to partner with other nearby companies that are traditionally too small to create their own transportation programs, and sell our unused seats on our buses to them. This not only provides their employees with a sustainable commute method but also allows us to maximize our seat capacity.

“Our team has a very ambitious electrification roadmap that includes transitioning 80-100% of our bus fleet to electric by 2025.”

In addition, we have also been running shuttles from our campus to BART & Caltrain stations for over two decades. Along the way, it became clear that employees at other companies could benefit from this service and we began opening them up to the larger business district free of charge. Currently, over 50% of the riders on these routes are non-Genentech employees.

ACT News: What have been some of the technical challenges and lessons learned from the deployment of the first electric buses at Genentech?

Lyndel Fusello: We have definitely had some growing pains over the last couple years, but none that we didn’t learn from! The biggest lesson I’d say is in regard to infrastructure: think long term. Infrastructure is not cheap, and doing it in pieces is not financially sustainable. Really spend some time planning your vision for your program, and then build infrastructure to meet your end goal. Make sure to also educate yourself on vehicle, infrastructure and energy incentives and rebates. This can really help decrease your overall costs.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to utilize experts and people who have gone before you! We are all learning as this is a relatively new technology in our industry, and we can benefit from listening to each other’s experiences and mistakes. There are also a good number of companies and consultants available now to help you with this.

“The biggest lesson I’d say is in regard to infrastructure: think long term.”

Lastly, take your time evaluating and testing the vehicle makes and models out there. Just because a vehicle was selected by one company does not mean it will be the best fit for your environment or your passenger needs. You are best equipped to make that decision.

ACT News: What are your hopes for the clean transportation sector?

Lyndel Fusello: This is a loaded question, but mainly because I have so many high hopes for where clean transportation is going. A big desire of mine is to have a wide variety of product on the market that is universally compatible with all charging infrastructure. Many manufacturers are close to releasing new electric coaches and this could really change the game. I also hope to see shared infrastructure being the norm. As mentioned before, infrastructure is not cheap and if we could share it, we could help move everyone forward in their electrification goals. Lastly, I hope to see some change in policies surrounding clean transportation. If the world continues to favor cars and car access over every other mode, we are going to be limited in what we can accomplish. We need leaders like California, making vehicle policies and regulation that supports the change from ICE to EV for all vehicles and we need policies that rebalance the space allocated to each mode (HOV lanes, bus only, bike/pedestrian spaces).

ACT News: What advice would you offer to young professionals interested in pursuing a similar career path?

Lyndel Fusello: Take every opportunity that is presented to you and run with it. Whether that is just sitting in on a meeting and listening, or being given a project to own, make the most of it. Learn from your colleagues, ask questions (there are no dumb ones!), research and take it all in! To me, that is the best way to learn and grow in this exciting field.

ACT News: What is the next challenge you have planned?

Lyndel Fusello: My next challenge which I’m extremely excited about is electrifying our onsite shuttle fleet. Currently we have 12 shuttles that are gasoline powered. The goal is to convert 100% of the fleet to electric by 2025. To do so, we are exploring performing gasoline to electric conversions on our current vehicles and keeping a close eye on the market for suitable vehicle options for us.

ACT News: What other leadership roles do you hold in the community and/or what volunteer efforts do you support?

Lyndel Fusello: Since a young age, I have actively participated in volunteer efforts for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention as it holds a close place in my heart. Additionally, ever since joining Genentech, I have been exposed to many more great organizations to volunteer for. This last year, the whole Genentech Transportation team participated in a stair climb up the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.