AT&T commits to natural-gas vehicles

US telecoms business AT&T has announced plans to deploy more than 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles over the next 10 years.

The company expects to spend around $350m on purchasing 8,000 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) service vehicles and a further $215m to begin replacing its passenger cars with alternative-fuel models.

AT&T's investment represents the largest US corporate commitment to CNG vehicles to date. The new deployments will bring AT&T's alternative-fuel fleet to more than 15,000 vehicles by 2019.

The CNG vehicles are expected to produce approximately 25 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than their gasoline equivalents. The vehicle chassis will be built by a US automotive manufacturer. AT&T will then work with domestic suppliers to convert the chassis to run on CNG. It will also work with natural gas service providers to build up to 40 new CNG fuelling stations across its operating region.

In addition to the service-vehicle programme, AT&T has said that, as it retires the gasoline-powered passenger vehicles in its fleet, it will replace them with alternative-fuel models. During the initial phase, the replacements will be hybrid models, but other types will be considered as technologies evolve. AT&T expects to replace 7,100 passenger cars over the next 10 years.

The new CNG/passenger vehicle commitment follows AT&T's deployment of 105 alternative-fuel vehicles in more than 30 cities in June 2008. In addition, the company piloted four Ford Escape hybrids, which were deployed in late 2007 in California.

Through these pilot programmes, AT&T says it has learned that a mix of solutions is right for its fleet and that multiple technologies can help reduce its operating costs over time, while effectively reducing its fuel consumption and impact on the environment.

High-profile renewables campaigner T Boone Pickens, who is promoting the use of natural gas vehicles, welcomed the announcement, saying: "AT&T's decision to upgrade 8,000 of its fleet vehicles to run on natural gas is a demonstration of real American corporate leadership that will be good for their bottom line, the environment and the country. Smart American companies can be green and profitable and they don't have to trade one for the other. AT&T is to be commended for its efforts and the example they are setting for the rest of the country."

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