(Photo by Scott Lowe on Flickr)
AT&T announced last week that it will introduce 15,000 CNG and hybrid vehicles into its fleet by 2019. The proposed investment will require $350 million for 8,000 CNG cars and vans and $215 million to replace 7,100 traditional fleet vehicles with hybrids. The $565 million investment represents the largest commitment by an American company to alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles to this point.
The telecommunications giant will add 800 CNG and hybrid vehicles to its fleet in 2009. AT&T’s CNG vehicles are expected to cut greenhouse emissions by 25% and decrease fuel costs in the long term. The hybrid vans, trucks and cars used by AT&T are expected to reduce fuel usage by 39% and cut tailpipe emissions by 29%. Researchers at the Center for Automotive Research have said that the company’s green-vehicle commitment could save 49 million gallons of gas over the next decade.
The CNG investment made by AT&T includes an effort to develop an infrastructure for refueling for long-range routes. AT&T will work with natural gas companies to create at least 40 refueling stations across the United States to serve the company’s fleet vehicles. As the company replaces its existing cars with plug-in hybrids and all-electrics, it is easy to see the need for a charging infrastructure as well. The consequence of AT&T’s investment is not just a decrease in operating costs but a well-developed infrastructure for consumers and small businesses.
AT&T began down the path of sustainable driving in 2007 when it participated in a fleet test of the Ford Escape hybrid. The company has already inserted 105 hybrid vehicles into 30 local fleets in the United States, presumably to test the viability of a larger rollout. AT&T has been laying down the groundwork for this significant investment for years while assessing whether the risks outweighed the rewards.
AT&T’s $565 million investment should be lauded by all but the most ardent anti-corporate green vehicle enthusiasts. While it is easy to deride corporations for taking token steps to sustainability, AT&T is actually living up to the expectations we all have for corporate America. The influence AT&T has on other industries as well as state and federal legislators may be insidious in the telecommunications field but it will have a positive impact in the alternative fuel arena.