US Postal Service To Go Electric, Like Dylan At Newport
In a very welcome reversal of a terrible decision in February, the US Postal Service announced today that it will be investing $9.6 billion to electrify its vehicle fleet by 2028. USPS plans to purchase 66,000 electric delivery vehicles, and starting in 2026, all purchases of its "Next Generation Delivery Vehicle" (NGDV), the funky mail truck pictured up top, will be for the EV version. Update:Since a few of you asked in the comments, both versions will use the same basic bulbous beluga whale design, with different innards.
It's a huge change from the plan Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced earlier this year, under which just 5,000 of the NGDV trucks would be electric, or just 10 percent of the planned fleet. Now the plan is for 75 percent of the 66,000 NGDVs to be electric, meaning 40,000 will be battery-powered and the other 16,000 will be powered by gasoline. In addition, the agency plans to purchase another 46,000 vehicles from regular manufacturers, of which 21,000 will be electric. No, we don't know why DeJoy still has a job.
The change to prioritizing EVs resulted partly from the allocation of $3 billion for EVs and EV infrastructure in this summer's climate bill, and partly from political pressure on the Postal Service to modernize goddamn it. It may also have helped that gas prices skyrocketed this year, underlining the point made in a 2021 study by Atlas Public Policy: Over the life of the fleet, electric delivery trucks could save the agency billions in fuel costs.
(Quick digression: We all really need to start thinking about vehicles in terms of their lifetime energy costs, not just their purchase price. As the world gets off the fossil fuel teat, gas prices are only going to go up in coming decades.)
As we've noted previously, a central part of Joe Biden's climate plan is to use the purchasing power of the federal government to drive the transition to clean energy. In a statement, the White House noted,
The U.S. government operates the largest vehicle fleet in the world, and USPS is the largest vehicle fleet in the Federal government. Through today’s action, USPS sets the bar for the rest of the Federal government, and, importantly, the rest of the world.
The huge order for electric delivery trucks — not just the NGDVs to be built by defense contractor Oshkosh, but also the 21,000 trucks from commercial manufacturers — is meant to spur more development of electric technology for medium and heavy-duty trucks. As of now, the USPS needs gas or diesel trucks to make up about half its projected fleet, since longer-haul vans and trucks are still needed for intercity routes that are beyond the range of current electric-powered trucks. Develop better batteries and charging infrastructure, and that's going to change.
The $9.6 billion plan also includes installing charging infrastructure at post offices and distribution hubs, as well as revamping the USPS's network of processing facilities to eliminate unnecessary trips.
The USPS has long needed to replace its existing delivery trucks, the oldest of which went into service in the late 1980s. The old trucks are wearing out, lack safety equipment like airbags, and don't have air conditioning. They also get only around eight miles per gallon.
Switching to a mostly electric fleet will make a huge difference, particularly since the gas version of the NGDV only gets 14 MPG — with the AC off. Turn it on, and the mileage drops to 8.6, hardly an improvement over the older trucks. Electrifying as much of the postal fleet as possible will result in enormously reduced carbon emissions, since the NGDV fleet is expected to last decades.
Also too, as the Washington Post reports, today's announcement even pleased some critics who had (justifiably) castigated DeJoy's initial plan:
Adrian Martinez, an attorney at climate activist group Earthjustice who is leading a lawsuit against the agency over its vehicle procurement, called the new truck purchase plan “a sea change in the federal fleet.”
“In the course of a year we’ve gone from a USPS plan to buy trucks with the fuel economy of a late 1990s Hummer to a visionary commitment to modernize mail delivery in the United States with electric trucks,” he said. “We’re grateful to the Biden administration for stepping in to put us on course for an electric future.”
This is some pretty honkin' big news! You have our permission to be at least a little bit hopeful.
UPDATE: Yes 'tis your OPEN THREAD. Sorry I forgot to say. But it definitely is. Frolic responsibly.
[White House / USPS / WaPo]
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