Postal Updates

USPS white paper says electric vehicles OK

Mar 24, 2022, 10 AM

Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister

A new white paper from the United States Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General seems to depart from the agency’s anti-electric truck rhetoric, saying that the new delivery trucks might be more costly initially but could save money in the long term.

“Our research confirms that electric vehicle technology is generally capable of meeting the Postal Service’s needs,” concludes the new 20-page report released March 17.

The report finds that the “total cost of ownership” of electric versus gasoline trucks shows “electric vehicles are likely to be more affordable to own than gasoline-powered vehicles in certain cases, even in the absence of financial incentives.”

That position seems much more welcoming to electric trucks than did the arguments the USPS recently used to rebut the Biden administration’s case for electric vehicles throughout the federal government.

Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality have attacked Postmaster Louis DeJoy’s plans for a new delivery fleet mostly composed of gasoline-powered trucks.

DeJoy has cited the higher costs of electric trucks and the charging stations they will require as major obstacles for the federal agency with financial woes.

The new report is almost certain to be seized by Congressional Democrats who have been fighting DeJoy’s plan to have only 10 percent of the next generation trucks powered by electricity.

Titled “Electric Delivery Vehicles and the Postal Service,” the report argues that after electric vehicles are purchased and operational they “are generally cheaper to operate because energy and maintenance costs are lower.”

It also says that the Postal Service is making its decision on truck purchases at “a moment when electric vehicle technology is rapidly advancing.”

Battery ranges are improving and costs are declining, the report says, noting petroleum prices have “experienced significant price fluctuations” since 2000.

“The agency’s decision to electrify a portion — or all — of its delivery fleet is a far-reaching decision that will impact its employees, operations and services for decades to come,” the white paper says.

Release of the paper does not signal a change in DeJoy’s truck policy.

Scott Bombaugh, chief technology officer for the USPS, made that clear in a four-page statement from USPS management that was added to the paper.

He stressed that the agency has not yet formally ordered any new trucks.

The Postal Service’s February 2021 contract with Oshkosh Defense “is limited to supporting the non-recurring engineering and tooling development,” Bombaugh said.

“As of this date, no delivery orders for vehicles have been issued, nor have vehicles been purchased,” he said.

The inspector general’s report gives a history of the Postal Service’s involvement with electric trucks, noting that it began testing six electric passenger vehicles at three northern Virginia locations in 2017 and has 15 electric 2-ton trucks delivering mail in Fresno, Calif., and Stockton, Calif.

The contract with Oshkosh Defense calls for delivery of between 50,000 and 165,000 trucks over a 10-year period.

The report also notes how foreign post offices are using electric vehicles and how the Postal Service’s domestic competitors are moving toward electric trucks.

The report’s conclusion says that electric vehicles “may be a good option for deployment on many postal routes.”

That would create “important environmental benefits” for the USPS and help encourage growth of electric vehicle fleets, according to the report.

“It is important to note that electric vehicle technology is rapidly advancing and current cost projections may look very different in a few years, strengthening the case for electric vehicle adoption,” the report says.

In a reflection of congressional interest in the new trucks, four Democratic members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform asked Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense March 18 if it moved the planned truck production to South Carolina to deny its unionized workers in Wisconsin the jobs.

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