The USPS announced this week that at least 50% of freshly ordered NGDVs under the existing contract are anticipated to be battery electric vehicles in response to pressure from the Biden administration, numerous states, and the UAW. In postal jargon, NGDV refers to a next-generation delivery vehicle.
The postal service initially stated that only 10% of its new delivery vans will be battery-powered. For the construction of the vehicles that will replace those now in use, some of which are 30 years old and require frequent maintenance, it has chosen Oshkosh Defense as the primary contractor.
Oshkosh Defense is skilled at creating military vehicles, but they are unfamiliar with producing small civilian vehicles like those used by the USPS to deliver mail. Additionally, it has very little knowledge of battery-powered vehicles. The corporation then made the decision to flee its fiercely non-union South Carolina location in favor of its unionized workers in its home state of Wisconsin, setting off a firestorm of backlash from the UAW.
These bullet points are also included in the most recent press release:
As technology advances and the organization’s financial and operational situation improves, The Postal Service pledges to evaluating vehicle mix and purchasing capabilities more frequently. In addition to the present purpose-built NGDV purchase, the Postal Service anticipates purchasing 34,500 commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) cars to meet operating requirements. These vehicles will include as many BEVs as are commercially available. The Postal Service anticipates that BEVs will make up at least 40% of all NGDVs and COTS vehicles covered by the SEIS. UNPACKING THE USPS NEWS The major news in this most recent statement is that USPS will not only purchase vehicles from Oshkosh Defense during the next two years, but it will also buy 34,500 commercial vehicles off the shelf, including as many BEVs as are commercially available. Hmmmm. Who do we know who has a fleet of relatively modest battery-powered delivery vehicles?
Because the Rivian van is too large, Amazon has priority. Brightdrop? Not in full production and too large. Ford? There is no electric Transit Connect model, and the E-Transit is too large. A tiny van made by Ram is not electric. To be honest, not many manufacturers have a large inventory of battery-powered delivery cars sitting around, simply waiting for a call.
Although Arrival has the appropriate truck, no production capacity exists at the moment. Tesla doesn’t care about delivery cars. They might be 3D printed by Local Motors, but the company is bankrupt. Workhorse believed it had the ideal vehicle for the job, but testing revealed otherwise, and it’s unclear whether they have made any improvements. Here’s an idea. Walmart has ordered 4,500 electric delivery trucks, but does Canoo have the capacity to produce them? Who has agreements in place to supply USPS with enough batteries to power a fleet of vehicles?
Oshkosh will deliver more vehicles with batteries. Currently, USPS reports that 50 percent of the trucks it will purchase from Oshkosh Defense will be battery-powered in addition to those 34,500 off-the-shelf vehicles. That’s an increase from the original 10%. The present contract with Oshkosh Defenses is for 50,000 vehicles, thus now 25,000 of them will be battery-electrics. Good news, that. Although EV proponents might have preferred a figure closer to 90%, things have changed significantly since the original contract was revealed.
Over the next ten years, USPS plans to buy 165,000 new cars overall. For the time being, 50,000 will come from Oshkosh Defense and 34,500 from other producers. In order to be more responsive to its changing operational strategy, technological advancements, and shifting market conditions, including the anticipated increased availability of BEV options in the future, it says 40% of those 84,500 vehicles will be battery-electric. It also says it will continue to evaluate and purchase vehicles over shorter time periods.
That might be an indication that more battery-electric vehicles are welcome to be added. All that is required to get through it is for one or more manufacturers to create BEV delivery vehicles that fulfill USPS requirements and put them on the market.
PRESERVING THOSE OLD TRUCKS Even if all of this excellent news is appreciated, it will still be a while before the new vehicles that will eventually replace the outdated USPS trucks start to arrive. The postal office estimates that maintaining those outdated trucks will be very expensive. It informed Reuters this week that despite the high operational risk, high maintenance costs, and increased greenhouse gas emissions, it will also need to invest a significant amount of money each year in the repair of over 50,000 outdated delivery vehicles if it wants to keep extending their useful lives.
Some of the current USPS fleet vehicles will be 40 years old or older when they are replaced. Perhaps if the cheaper fuel and maintenance costs of electric vehicles begin to make an impression on the powers that be at USPS and their political masters, the uptake rate of battery-electric vehicles will begin to accelerate. In a direct head-to-head comparison between fleet-serviced electric vehicles and those propelled by terrible internal combustion engines, BEVs will always come out on top. What we already know will be confirmed by the USPS experience.
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