AT&T Inc. says it will spend up to $565 million over the next 10 years to purchase more than 15,000 alternative-fuel and hybrid-electric vehicles for its corporate fleet.

The telecommunications giant will buy 8,000 vehicles from Ford Motor Co., which will then be converted to run on compressed natural gas by AT&T and domestic suppliers. AT&T also will work with natural-gas service providers to build up to 40 CNG fueling stations across its operating region, the company says in a statement.

In addition to the CNG vehicles, AT&T will add 7,100 hybrid-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to its fleet over the course of the next decade. Most of these will be built by Ford, with some coming from Toyota Motor Corp.

The expenditure represents the largest commitment by a U.S. corporation to CNG vehicles to date, AT&T says.

“AT&T and other U.S. corporations have a unique opportunity to partner with the new (Obama) administration as it works to lead the country out of this economic downturn,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO, says in a statement.

“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.”

According to a study by the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, MI, the AT&T vehicles will save 49 million gallons (185 million L) of gasoline and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 232,587 tons (211,000 t) over the 10-year deployment period.

That is equivalent to removing the emissions from more than 38,600 traditional passenger vehicles per year, CAR says.