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What's the biggest compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle order that GM has ever received? Thanks to an announcement yesterday from the automaker and AT&T, we now know the answer is 1,200 vehicles.

That's how many Chevrolet Express Cargo Vans AT&T will get from The General. The dozen hundred vehicles will go into service across the country and are part of AT&T's much larger initiative to green up its fleet. From electric vans to other electric vans to hybrids, the company has invested in a variety of alternative powertrain vehicles. It pretty much has to look at many options if it wants to reach its target of deploying 15,000 alternative power vehicles by 2018. This $545-million project started in 2009; the 5,000th vehicle joined the fleet last week.

The 1,200 new GM vans are all Chevrolet Express models that have been built at the factory to burn CNG in their Vortec 6.0L V8 engines. GM says the modifications include "hardened exhaust valves, and intake and exhaust valve seats for improved wear resistance and durability with gaseous fuel systems." The fuel may burn cleaner than gasoline, but these are still fuel-hungry monsters that get a gasoline-equivalent fuel economy of 11 miles per gallon (city) and 16 mpg (highway), according to previous statements from GM, which also indicated the CNG versions cost an extra $14,590 compared to regular gas vans.

AT&T's order is the latest in a bit of an upsurge in CNG vehicles in America and around the world. The Honda Civic Natural Gas won the 2012 Green Car of the Year award at last year's LA Auto Show and is the first passenger car to be available in all 50-states. CNG has long been more popular in the fleet market than in general use, since fleet managers can calculate the cost benefits fairly easily, just ask Waste Management or the AT&T of last March, which ordered 100 CNG-powered Chevy Express vans. If everything goes as planned, AT&T should have around 8,000 CNG vehicles in its fleet sometime this decade.

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AT&T Orders 1,200 CNG-powered Chevrolet Express Vans

2012-01-30

DETROIT – AT&T plans to take delivery of 1,200 Chevrolet Express compressed natural gas (CNG) dedicated cargo vans to be deployed to AT&T service centers nationwide. It is the largest-ever order of CNG vehicles from General Motors.

AT&T, which has announced its intention to invest up to $565 million to deploy approximately 15,000 alternative fuel vehicles over a 10-year period through 2018, will use the vans to provide and maintain communications, high-speed Internet and television services for AT&T customers. Last week, the company announced the milestone deployment of its 5,000th alternative-fuel vehicle, a Chevrolet Express van, as part of the commitment.

"CNG technology is important to AT&T because it helps us reduce our fleet-based carbon emissions," said Jerome Webber, AT&T vice president of Fleet Operations. "It is also cost-effective and readily available in our country right now."

According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, CNG-powered vans can produce approximately 25 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than similar gasoline and diesel-powered vans, which supports AT&T's corporate commitment to minimize its impact on the environment.

"There are millions of fleet vehicles on the road today and we want to be a critical part of this sustainable revolution, helping make these conversions as easy as possible," said Brian Small, general manager, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations.

Chevrolet Express CNG vans are powered by a Vortec 6.0L V8 engine equipped with hardened exhaust valves, and intake and exhaust valve seats for improved wear resistance and durability with gaseous fuel systems. The vans are factory ordered and delivered to customers with their factory-engineered and fully integrated gaseous fuel system in place, completely ready for work.

The CNG option is available for order on Chevrolet Express 2500 and 3500 Cargo vans. Each van is covered by GM's three-year, 36,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty and five-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and meets all Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board emission certification requirements.

The GM Fleet and Commercial Customer Service LinkedIn group offers a discussion forum for Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac fleet vehicle owners.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM's brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.


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  • 36 Comments
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      an overweight unaerodynamic V8 van running on fossil fuel is just not green.. it is the diametric opposite of green. why does an AT&T worker need a 6L V8... http://att.unp.im/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/DoubleFacePalm.jpg
        DarylMc
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        You could be right Dan. In China I've seen technicians run around on bicycles. If they need to work at heights perhaps one of their mates will bring around a bamboo ladder on another bicycle. Bloody ridiculous to have a van when a bicycle wil do :)
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DarylMc
          I'm always right. here in europe work vehicles are typically 2L 4 cylinder diesels. that includes large flatbeds. a VW Caddy which is a small van is available with a 1.2L gasoline/petrol engine. the van part is perfectly ok. it's the 6L V8 that's God's wrath invokingly stupid. and the stupidity is elevated to incredible heights when considering this is some kind of misguided attempt at greenery by AT&T
        DarylMc
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        Yet a whole lot of Chinese could rightly consider the Caddy a behemoth and not so green compared to a bicycle.
          DarylMc
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DarylMc
          I know you will get a laugh out of this but the Caddy can hardly be considered Super Duty.
        theflew
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        Have you ever seen the amount of cable in the back of one of these things? You also see them towing scissors lifts as well.
      Ron Wagner
      • 2 Years Ago
      $15,000 extra seems like a ridiculous price increase. I would think that $5,000 would be reasonable, judging from my research. See younkin.com
      Joeviocoe
      • 3 Years Ago
      The $14,590 price for this factory conversion is not in either of the Press Releases quoted. It was written by Eric Loveday in March 2011. Supposedly a direct quote from GM. --- Do we know if this is the quoted price from GM to do an "aftermarket" conversion of an existing Gasoline Van at a GM service center? Or the Factory, brand new, never ran gasoline version? Could the quoted price be of just ONE van? How much did AT&T pay when they ordered 101? Seems like an odd number, maybe the price structure for 1 - 100 vans was very different. How much is AT&T paying for 1,200 van? That is a huge volume discount I would think. The $14,590 is for the "Optional" CNG package with the Extra tank. What is the price difference between the different options? What option did AT&T get? ======================= I would imagine AT&T paying less than $7500 for each. And combined with the fuel savings... they will have a reasonable payback period.
        Joeviocoe
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        http://www.gmfleet.com/pdf/Express-Savana-CNG-Cargo-Van.pdf That extra 4th tank... has to go in the cargo area... and brings the range from 300 miles to 400 miles... I doubt AT&T puchased the 4 tank version. They don't really need the longer range, they need the utility. So that $14,500 price is not accurate just on that account.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          oops... I meant 200 to 300 miles [not 300 to 400] 200 miles is plenty for an AT&T service van.
        axiomatik
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        Look at the premium just for a diesel, it's around $12,000 more than the equivalent gas engine versions.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @axiomatik
          The premium in Europe is maybe $2-3,000. The US manufacturers just want to rip off anyone who dares consider anything but petrol.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        'The Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans accept natural gas and are affordable, with price tags starting at $24,985 and $28,940, respectively. But consumers may not be interested in purchasing vans that look like commercial vehicles.' http://ecofriendlyllc.com/2012-01-05/cng-the-fuel-alternative-of-the-future/ So I have no idea what the situation really is. Since I am not American it presents some difficulties in an unfamiliar market to do price comparisons, so I will leave it to those who are to take a look at the price of a non-CNG vehicle and compare. I am not even sure if the article I have linked is saying that this is the price of the vehicles before conversion to CNG or after.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Chevrolet 2011 Express Cargo Van RWD 2500 135" BASE MSRP* $26,105 COLORS & OPTIONS $14,720 DELIVERY & HANDLING $980 TOTAL MSRP $41,805 -$1,500 Cash Allowance: Up to $1,500 cash back NET PRICE $40,305
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          http://www.gmfleet.com/chevrolet/express-cargo-2500/ The EcofriendlyLLC link was misleading. Those were the prices for vans that had engine types that Could burn CNG.. but not the CNG van with everything. http://prod3.gmautobuilder.com/BuildYourOwnFleet/?year=2011&mmc=CG23405 This is where ABG got the $15,000 figure. "Dedicated Compressed Natural Gas system, Get a cleaner burn with the Dedicated Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) system, available only with the Gaseous 6.0L V8 SFI engine and the Cold Climate Package. This system comes completely ready for use on your Express Cargo van. It includes a 4-tank configuration fuel system or may be substituted with available 3-tank configuration fuel system. ... $14,590" "3-tank configuration fuel system, Outfit your Express® Cargo with a 3-tank configuration fuel system. This replaces the standard 4-tank fuel system. Only available with the Dedicated Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) system. subtract ($1,265) [from the $14,590]" ======================== So about $14,000 for the 3-tank CNG Van over the Gasoline version. Ouch... hopefully AT&T got a SERIOUS volume discount. But I now estimate they are paying about $10k USD over the equivalent gas model by purchasing 1,200 vans.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          From the GM website the prices they give are simply those of the petrol version, and I can't see anything on CNG. Brilliant.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Thanks Dave, you can always be counted on for the good research. $28,940 USD for the CNG (according to your EcofriendlyLLC link) $25,090 USD for the Gasoline version... starting MSRP (according to the GM website) http://www.gmc.com/savana-cargo-van.html $4,000 price difference... for a single Savana Van CNG Probably $2,000 - $3,000 for a order of 1,200
      Dave
      • 3 Years Ago
      You can build and price a CNG Chevy Van on the website. It does appear to add $14,000+ to the price: http://www.chevrolet.com/tools/byo/byoCustomizeVehicle.do?zipCode=02896&year=2012&brand=express&title=&evar10=byo_path_buildbytrim&pvc=11131
        Dave
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dave
        Of course, its a safe bet that AT&T is getting a significant discount for this large fleet order.
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a farce that price is! The American manufacturers are killing alternative fuel. Bang goes any savings on petrol, taken by GM. In Europe the differential in the price is a fraction of that, so GM is simply mocking the American public, taking advantage of tax incentives and the desire of big companies to show themselves green. I've tried to like GM, but they make it very hard.
        DarylMc
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Hi DaveMart It's hard to criticize the price of any vehicle in the USA from down here in Australia. Diesel and LPG have quite a long payback here and I'm sure EV's will be even worse when they arrive. I'm quite sure it is not an ambition of our governments to have vehicles which are cheaper for the users to run.
        theflew
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Like it or not these are the options today. Do you expect GM to not make a profit building special purpose vehicles? It's not like there are electric cargo vans that can go freeway speeds and several hundred miles. When there are natural disasters you often see utility companies going between states to assist in repairs of downed lines.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @theflew
          Very true Dave... GM is so spoiled. They know they are too big to fail... and think that since Large companies want to buy American and Government is Forced to buy American, for all their commercial Fleet purchases.. that they have a monopoly to charge whatever they like. Ford needs to step up.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @theflew
          Special purpose? What are you on about? This is not an electric vehicle with new technology and an expensive battery pack. See my link above. In Europe they are turned out at small or no premium to the petrol or diesel version, and they don't sell in huge numbers there, so it is no a case of the economics being wildly different. GM is just following a policy of ripping off its customers, especially when it come to using anything other than oil. I am not a poster who habitually condemns companies for seeking to make a profit, or is against the capitalist system or whatever. This behaviour by GM is unbelievably short sighted though, and they seem to be almost deliberately mocking having been rescued by the taxpayer, and proud of their continued ability to block progress away from oil.
        Joeviocoe
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Read my above post about the price... and why I think it is inaccurate. Reply there please.
      Cool people
      • 3 Years Ago
      Using clean DOMESTIC CNG fuel is a winner! I think the real conversion cost is about $ 4000-4500. So the inflated price is to use TAX credits the US government formula allows.
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why does it cost $15K extra for a natural gas version? For that amount, you can go EV. (Although these vehicle probably need longer range.)
        Joeviocoe
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spec
        I think that is the most expensive option of CNG conversion... with extra tanks or something. But yeah, still expensive. Although.. that price was quoted by the infamous ABG writer Eric Loveday... in March of 2011.... for the initial 100 CNG vehicle order.... and I can't find where he got that number. By now, I would imagine AT&T paying MUCH less.
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      'Not only did Fiat proclaim CNG as the most appropriate and readily-available technology for resolving pollution problems in urban areas, but they announced that all of their gasoline-powered models are now also available in CNG versions, with little or no difference in cost to the consumer (in fact, due to tax incentives, the CNG versions may actually cost less in some jurisdictions).' http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com/index.php?article=11295&pageid=21&pagename=Energy GM, Kiing of the rip-off!
      Mike
      • 3 Years Ago
      These have been running around Silicon Valley for a while now. Regardless of the 11/16 mpg equivalent, AT&T will save money and release less emissions with these trucks. PG&E sells natural gas at residential rate at $0.90 per gallon equivalent. You still have to put energy into it with a home refueling appliance, but they give you a break on off-peak electricity for that too. If you take your CNG vehicle to a PG&E yard that has vehicle fueling available, they only charge a retail price of $2.315 per gallon equivalent, which includes vehicle fuel tax too. That's more than a dollar a gallon savings compared to local unleaded gas prices.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Mike
        Great. So after 150,000 miles or so you break even against GM's price. Oh, hang on, the fuel is less energy dense. Make that 200,000 miles or so. GM - ripping the public off the American way. Bandits.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          I seriously doubt AT&T is actually paying that amount. They did a cost/benefit analysis... and I am sure it pays off in a reasonable time. -------------------- I think that is the most expensive option of CNG conversion... with extra tanks or something. But yeah, still expensive. Although.. that price was quoted by the infamous ABG writer Eric Loveday... in March of 2011.... for the initial 100 CNG vehicle order.... and I can't find where he got that number. By now, I would imagine AT&T paying MUCH less.
      harlanx6
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is leadership. That being said, ATT has done their homework and this is an economic winner. Obama would be well served to do this with the gigantic Federal fleet in all urban areas where it's feasible.
      Unni
      • 3 Years Ago
      CNG has 25 percent less emissions than gasoline . But the gas version gets City 15 MPG , Highway 20 MPG ( in percentage percent 26 better city and 25 percent highway ). So in theory for same distance run there is no difference in emissions with these vans. .
        Joeviocoe
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Unni
        Wow... that is way wrong on many levels! http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/vehicles/emissions_natural_gas.html http://www.ngvc.org/about_ngv/ngv_environ.html The CO2 reduction is between 20% and 29%.... but that is PER MILE! Not per volume. So it is an ACTUAL reduction. Then there are the reduced Carbon Monoxide, Particulate Matter, Volatile Organic Compounds, etc.
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