Brent Meeks spends most of his workdays with Amgen behind the wheel of a car. As a senior specialty sales representative in Northern California, he visits physicians as much as two hours away from his home across a large rural territory that stretches from Yreka to Davis, California. When he received an email asking for volunteers to join a new electric vehicle pilot program for Amgen’s field fleet, the self-described “car and technology nerd” jumped at the chance to take part.
“When Amgen announced last year that the company would become carbon neutral by 2027, my immediate thought was about the carbon footprint of the sales force and their vehicles,” Meeks says. “I was excited to join the pilot program because I know electric vehicles are the future. Along with the sustainability benefits, they’re fun to drive!”
Amgen’s minimum 30% electrification target will significantly reduce carbon emissions
In the U.S., Amgen’s field staff includes sales representatives and medical liaisons who drive long distances for business. Globally the field fleet represents around 15% of the company’s overall carbon footprint, making the field fleet the third largest contributor of carbon emissions, only behind Amgen’s two largest manufacturing facilities in Juncos, Puerto Rico, and Thousand Oaks, Calif.
“Adapting to cleaner technologies such as all-electric vehicles is critical,” says Yanina Barrera, Ph.D., principal engineer, Engineering Technical Authority, who leads Amgen’s sustainability efforts to increase electrification of the field fleet to at least 30%. “Although carbon is emitted to the atmosphere indirectly from charging, all-electric vehicles often provide the largest reductions in carbon emissions in comparison to conventional fossil fuel internal combustion engine vehicles in countries like the U.S., Netherlands, and South Korea.”
For Jill Garand, senior specialty sales representative in the Anaheim territory of Southern California, getting in on the ground floor of this new program at Amgen was an easy choice. “This is the wave of the future. Where I live in California, you already see electric vehicles everywhere,” she says. “Now that I drive an electric vehicle for work, it feels like I’m doing my part for the environment. Amgen is such a progressive company—this seems like a natural thing to do.”
A better—and more sustainable—driving experience
Launching Amgen’s electric vehicle pilot program in the U.S. was no easy task. It started by developing a cross-functional fleet team to address key challenges, including the lower mileage range of electric vehicles paired with limited charging infrastructure availability in some territories, the lack of available vehicles due to supply chain issues, and the need to recruit volunteers for the pilot program.
“To ensure business continuity, Amgen covered the cost of home charger installation so the field staff can charge their vehicles at home overnight,” Barrera explains. “We also launched driver workshops to provide necessary information around common issues like public charging stations and reimbursement processes for electricity usage."
Both Meeks and Garand say that making the switch to their electric vehicles (both are driving the Volvo XC40 Recharge) was not only easy, but also that the experience of driving the cars has been fun, and they quickly noticed significant cost savings.
“By my calculations, I’ve figured that in the 9,000 miles I’ve driven the car, I’ve saved about 50% of what Amgen would be paying for gas for the same mileage, not to mention there’s no oil changes or maintenance costs,” Meeks says. “I also just look forward to driving the car. It’s fun, it’s high tech, and it puts a smile on my face every time.”
“Even having to stop at a charging station for 30 minutes during the day became a positive change to my way of working,” Garand says. “It gives me time to catch up on the administrative work that I used to end up doing in the evenings because I was always on the move during the day.”
Pilot program is on the road and off to a strong start
The goal of Amgen’s first electric vehicle pilot program is to capture lessons learned in preparation for launching a minimum of 1,800 electric vehicles on the road by 2027. “It will take global participation to help Amgen reach carbon neutrality by 2027,” Barrera says, “and electrifying our fleet in countries that are ready is critical to making that happen.”
As of January 1, 2022, Barrera's team has placed orders for 195 electric vehicles, which have been assigned to field staff, and that there are currently 105 Amgen field staff in the U.S. driving electric vehicles for work. Planning is also underway for deployment of all-electric vehicles in other geographies, including, but not limited to, the Netherlands and South Korea.
“Most importantly, this voluntary pilot program is empowering field staff to help us reach our carbon neutrality goal, and it’s integrating a culture of environmental sustainability throughout our business,” Barrera says. “I'd like thank my colleagues for the enormous efforts over the past year to help launch this program and achieving the 2021 environmental sustainability goal of 100 electric vehicles on the road in the midst of vehicle shortages and other global supply chain issues.”