The United States Postal Service (USPS) is now saying that – with sufficient funding – the service can electrify 70 per cent of its fleet within a decade. This is considerably more than previously planned. To start off with the new commitment, 5,000 electric vehicles are apparently to be ordered.
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This is the first concrete sign of movement after the United States Postal Service (USPS) initially only planned to electrify only ten per cent of its vehicles with the renewal of its fleet which led to sharp criticism and some controversy. Just a few days ago, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wrote a letter to the USPS, in which it made clear that the electric share of ten percent was far too low.
In this letter, the EPA demanded a new environmental review, saying that the current proposal is a “crucial lost opportunity to more rapidly reduce the carbon footprint of one of the largest government fleets in the world.” Another demand from the agency is to hold a public hearing on the fleet modernisation plan.
In response, the USPS has now published a notice in which the US Postal Service holds out the prospect of an electric share of 70 per cent within a decade. This should kick off with a possible order for an initial 5,000 electric vehicles. The USPS says in a statement that the plan also provides flexibility to increase the number of electric vehicles deployed if additional funding becomes available.
USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy says that the implementation of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) program will be done in a “fiscally responsible” manner. Here, he points to the additional funding he believes is needed. “The proposed action, which we are evaluating under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), includes an initial order plan for 5,000 electric vehicles, and the flexibility to increase the number of electric vehicles introduced should additional funding become available. Absent such funding, we must make fiscally responsible decisions that result in the needed introduction of safer and environmentally cleaner vehicles for the men and women who deliver America’s mail.”
But DeJoy does not appear to be a great fan of zero-emission vehicles. He also let slip that an NGDV with an internal combustion engine is currently his favorite. Compared to the current vehicle, which is called a “Long Life Vehicle,” the fuel efficiency is significantly better, he says.
Exactly this supposedly better fuel efficiency is being questioned by EPA. Based on previous plans of 10 per cent E share, EPA Deputy Administrator Vicki Arroyo wrote in the letter, a 10 per cent commitment to clean vehicles, “with virtually no fuel efficiency gains for the other 90 per cent, is plainly inconsistent with” Biden’s plan to “move with deliberate speed toward clean, zero-emitting vehicles.”
On this point, the USPS counters that The NGDV’s platform is designed to be flexible and can also be equipped with a battery-electric powertrain at a later date. USPS claims the key factor is one of cost: “When you’re an independent government entity running billion-dollar annual losses, and with a Congressional mandate to operate in a financially sustainable manner, we are compelled to act prudently in the interests of the American public. However, that responsibility should not be mistaken for an ambivalent commitment to operating a cleaner Postal vehicle fleet for our country,” says Postmaster General DeJoy.
The wording for the promised electrification remains vague. In a statement, the Postal Service said that – with Congress – it had “most recently discussed an ability to achieve 70% fleet electrification within a decade.” The Postal Service points out that it “generally receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.”
Further details on the proposed purchase of 5,000 electric vehicles have not yet been made.
Update 25 March 2022
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has ordered 50,000 delivery vehicles from the commercial vehicle manufacturer Oshkosh Defense to renew its fleet, 10,019 of which are electric vehicles. This is about twice as many electric vehicles as last planned.
Update 29 April 2022
Despite the doubling of electric vehicle orders, it is not enough for many agencies in the USA. The fact that the USPS continues to rely primarily on internal combustion vehicles for new vehicles and only hesitantly on electric vehicles may now have legal consequences for the state-owned company: sixteen US states, four environmental groups and the United Auto Workers union filed lawsuits to challenge the United States Postal Service’s procurement plan.
Specifically, USPS is accused of conducting a flawed and illegal environmental analysis and signing contracts before even completing a draft environmental review. USPS has contradicted this, according to a Reuters report, stating that it has fulfilled all environmental obligations.
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