Tuesday, August 10, 2010

AT&T Switching To Hybrids, Alternative-Fuel Vehicles

By D.R. STEWART World Staff Writer
Published: 8/10/2010 7:30 PM
Last Modified: 8/10/2010 7:30 PM

AT&T Inc. has begun retiring gasoline-powered vehicles in its corporate fleet in a 10-year, $565 million program aimed at replacing 15,000 vehicles with alternative fuel models.

Six new 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid cars have been delivered to AT&T offices in Tulsa, and they are among 16 hybrid cars joining AT&T’s fleet across Oklahoma in recent weeks, said executives of the nation’s largest telecommunications company.

In 2009, AT&T Oklahoma announced the delivery of 30 compressed natural gas vans to its fleet in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The CNG initiative was encouraged by tax incentives for alternative fuel vehicles developed by the Legislature, officials said.

AT&T announced earlier this year the deployment of the 2,000th alternative fuel vehicle and 1,500th CNG vehicle in its corporate fleet, making the AT&T CNG fleet one of the nation’s largest.

“Since last year, AT&T has been replacing its older-model vehicles with new hybrid cars and service vans powered by compressed natural gas,” said Mike Cooper, area manager of external affairs. “We’re excited about the opportunities this initiative provides to reduce our carbon emissions and lower our company’s overall fuel costs.”

Alternative fuel vehicles comprise a small fraction of the U.S. vehicle fleet. In 2008, the latest year for which there are complete statistics, there were 255.9 million registered vehicles in the United States, said the Department of Transportation.

Of the total U.S. vehicle fleet, fewer than 800,000 were alternative fuel vehicles, said the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative
Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center.

Richard Kolodziej, president of Natural Gas Vehicles for America in Washington, D.C., said AT&T’s move to compressed natural gas vans makes sense economically, environmentally and from a national security perspective.

“We produce 85 percent of the natural gas we use, and most of the rest we get from Canada,” Kolodziej said. “In 2030, the Energy Information Administration says we will be producing 98 percent of the natural gas we use. We will be, basically, energy independent with respect to natural gas.”

A website, CNGPrices.com, reports CNG prices at $1.24 a gallon at Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Muskogee, Bartlesville, Ponca City and Miami, Okla.

With 180,000 gasoline stations nationwide but only about 1,500 CNG stations, there isn’t the infrastructure in place to support widespread public use of CNG vehicles, industry officials said.

“But if you concentrate on return-to-home vehicles … point-to-point vehicles, and put a station on either end and service that fleet, you don’t need a national network,” Kolodziej said. “It may cost you a third more for natural gas trucks. If you’re saving $1 per gallon, you can pay for it in 2?½ years.”

AT&T estimates purchasing about 8,000 CNG vehicles over a five-year period at a projected cost of $350 million. The company expects to pay an additional $215 million through 2018 to replace 7,100 fleet passenger cars with alternative fuel models.

The Center for Automotive Research estimates AT&T’s alternative fuel vehicle initiative will save 49 million gallons of gasoline over 10 years while reducing carbon emissions by 211,000 metric tons. The carbon emission reduction is equivalent to removing 147,929 passenger vehicles from the nation’s highways for a year, the center said.

“The deployment of our 2,000th alternative fuel vehicle is a significant milestone in an ongoing effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Jerome Webber, AT&T’s vice president of fleet operations. “To continue making progress, we are working with our suppliers and local municipalities to encourage the expansion of support infrastructure, which would allow the introduction of more fuel efficient vehicles in communities around the U.S.”

Kolodziej, the natural gas vehicle organization executive, said alternative fuel vehicles’ advantages will grow with time.

“All the forecasters say that when the recession is over, gas prices are going to skyrocket,” Kolodziej said. “Meanwhile, natural gas prices will remain relatively flat because of its availability.”

From Tulsa World


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