Click above to watch video after the jump

Although AT&T claims it wants to be more sustainable, today's announcement from the telecom behemoth is more about cutting operating expenses as fuel costs climb. Whatever the reason, the addition of 15,000 alternative fuel vehicles to the company's fleet over the next decade is a good thing. The phone company will be spending as much as $565 million over that time period to turn over much of its fleet of service and support vehicles. The lucky automaker who will get this big order hasn't been named yet, but AT&T has said it will be a domestic automaker and a domestic supplier will be used to convert the vehicles to run on CNG.

Approximately 8,000 compressed natural gas fueled trucks and vans will be deployed, starting mainly in California where there are already a significant number of CNG filling stations available. AT&T will also work with suppliers to install up to 40 more CNG stations in the areas where it operates.

Passenger cars that are used by customer service personnel will also be replaced with new hybrid vehicles. The first 800 vehicles will be put into service this year. Check out the video and press release after the jump.

UPDATE: The Detroit Free Press reports that Ford will be the lucky recipient of AT&T's large order of vehicles. Thanks for the tip, Fadi!

[Source: AT&T]




PRESS RELEASE:

AT&T to Deploy More Than 15,000 Alternative-Fuel Vehicles

Makes Largest Commitment to Compressed Natural Gas to Date by a U.S. Company; Part of 10-Year Commitment to Spend up to $565 Million on Alternative-Fuel Vehicles

Dallas, Texas, March 11, 2009

Through an initiative that highlights the growing demand for cleaner domestic vehicles, AT&T* today announced plans to invest up to $565 million as part of a long-term strategy to deploy more than 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles over the next 10 years. AT&T expects to spend an estimated $350 million to purchase about 8,000 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles and approximately $215 million to begin replacing its passenger cars with alternative-fuel models.

AT&T's investment represents the largest U.S. 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.

"AT&T and other U.S. corporations have a unique opportunity to partner with the new administration as it works to lead the country out of this economic downturn," said Randall Stephenson, chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T Inc. "While there are no easy solutions to the challenges facing our nation, this investment is a first step on our part to help boost other industries while at the same time encouraging wider use and production of efficient vehicles and domestic fuel alternatives."

The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Mich., estimates that the new vehicles will save 49 million gallons of gasoline and reduce carbon emissions by 211,000 metric tons over the 10-year deployment period. That is equivalent to removing the emissions from more than 38,600 traditional passenger vehicles for a year.

Over the next five years, AT&T will replace about 8,000 gasoline-powered service vehicles with vehicles powered by domestically available CNG. CNG vehicles are expected to emit approximately 25 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than those traditionally powered by gasoline.

The vehicle chassis will be built domestically by a U.S. automotive manufacturer. AT&T will then work with domestic suppliers to convert the chassis to run on CNG. AT&T will also work with natural gas service providers to build up to 40 new CNG fueling stations across its operating region to provide the fueling infrastructure needed for the new vehicles. This investment will have a positive impact on job creation and preservation. CAR estimates that nearly 1,000 jobs will be created or saved each year for five years.

As it begins to retire gasoline-powered passenger vehicles in its fleet, AT&T has committed to replacing them with alternative-fuel models. AT&T expects to replace 7,100 passenger cars over the next 10 years. The alternative-fuel vehicles, which will be used by employees in a variety of diverse work functions across AT&T's operations, are expected to offer up to a 39 percent improvement in fuel economy and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 29 percent.

During the initial phase of the deployment, gasoline-powered passenger vehicles will be replaced with hybrid models. As technologies evolve, additional alternative-fuel vehicle types will be considered for inclusion.

"Economic times are tough, but tough times make it even more important to look for efficient solutions," said Stephenson. "This is part of a long-term strategy that will help us continue to cut operating costs, reduce emissions in the communities we serve and make our business even more sustainable."

In 2009, AT&T will deploy nearly 800 of the CNG and hybrid electric vehicles. A Green Technology insignia will make the vehicles easy to identify on the road.

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

Through these successful pilot programs, AT&T 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.

In addition to taking steps to make its fleet more efficient, AT&T is committed to helping its customers make their commercial fleets more efficient via a portfolio of fleet management products and services. Using AT&T's nationwide mobile broadband network and GPS partner solutions, AT&T provides fleet managers with the ability to actively manage their vehicles, increase efficiency and reduce fuel and insurance costs. Nearly all of AT&T's own technician vehicles are equipped with similar GPS capabilities, which have provided increased visibility into business operations and allowed AT&T to uncover opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

To view this announcement live, please visit www.att.com/public-policy. For more information about AT&T's sustainability efforts, please visit www.att.com/sustainability.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.