With one year down and less than nine to go, AT&T is making steady progress toward its 10-year goal to deploy more than 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles in its fleet. Just this February, the company announced the deployment of its 1,000th alt-fuel vehicle — a compressed natural gas (CNG) van counted as one of 8,000 total CNG vehicles AT&T has committed to operating within the next four years. Representing the largest U.S. corporate CNG initiative to date, AT&T plans to complete 1,850 CNG conversions during 2010.
Investing in the Cause
Ranked No.1 on Automotive Fleet's 2010 Top 300 Commercial Fleets (based on total fleet size), AT&T currently operates 77,000 vehicles in its fleet. The fleet comprises a range of vehicle types, including light utility-bed trucks, vans, light aerial lift trucks, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, passenger cars, pickups, and wheeled work equipment. Company vehicles are used by departments including Installation & Maintenance, Construction, Central Office Operations, Mobility, Logistics, and Sales.
AT&T's CNG commitment follows the company's deployment of 105 alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) beginning in June 2008, a program spearheaded by Jerome Webber, vice president — fleet operations, and 2009 Environmental Leadership Award recipient.
After investigating natural gas vehicle options, benefits, and supply chain availability, AT&T field-tested 25 CNG-powered installation-and-maintenance (I&M) service vans in several of its California depots. Other alt-fuel models tested included 65 electric hybrid passenger vehicles and 15 hybrid-electric conversion work trucks. After deploying the units and evaluating their performance, AT&T announced in March 2009 it would replace approximately 8,000 of its existing gasoline-powered service vehicles with vehicles powered by domestically available CNG over the next five years as part of a larger program to deploy 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles by 2019.
According to Webber, "Clean-burning, natural gas fuel not only makes good sense for the environment, it makes good business sense as well. CNG provides a strong economic advantage compared to gasoline and diesel powered-vehicles."
The investment in CNG vehicles is expected to account for an estimated $350 million - about 62 percent of the total $565 million invested in replacing AT&T's older fleet vehicles with more fuel-efficient models.
Fueling its Commitment
BAF Technologies, a subsidiary of Clean Energy Fuels Corp., joined AT&T's project in June 2009 to perform the conversion of the vehicles to compressed natural gas.
In the latest project developments, AT&T ordered BAF Technologies to convert 463 Ford E-250 vans to run on CNG by summer 2010. The order is in addition to 463 units previously delivered earlier this year. Through BAF, AT&T will convert a total of 1,850 vans in 2010 and is exploring the potential conversion of other vehicle types, including F-Series trucks. The vehicles will utilize the BAF CapComp System, a proprietary CNG fuel system certified by the EPA.
Clean Energy Fuels Corp. also has contracted with AT&T to supply compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations to support AT&T in its current commitment. As part of a multiyear master agreement, Clean Energy will build, operate, and supply CNG stations for AT&T use.
According to the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), AT&T's overall alternative-fuel vehicle initiative will save 49 million gallons of gasoline over the 10-year deployment period and reduce carbon emissions by 211,000 metric tons. Once the 10-year goal has been met, CAR estimates CNG vans will count for approximately 5.7 million of the 6.7 million-plus gasoline gallons saved and 19,310 of the 31,533 metric tons of carbon emissions reduced annually.
AT&T's CNG efforts have also earned the company recognition by NGVAmerica and the Clean Vehicle Education Foundation (CVEF) as a 2009 National NGV Achievement Award winner for actions to promote the use of natural gas in its fleet operations and to educate the public on the alt-fuel option.