The United States Postal Service (USPS) is about to replace its aging fleet of postal trucksmost of which were built between 1987 and 1994. Classic Grumman LLV courier trucks lack basic safety features such as airbags and achieve around 8.2 miles per gallon, about half the industry standard .
The Biden administration is pushing the USPS, an independent entity within the executive branch, to transition to electric vehicles, pursuant to a Dec. 8 White House executive order directing all federal agencies to fully electrify their car and truck fleets by 2035. Instead, the USPS announcement on March 24 that it had ordered 50,000 new mail trucks from defense contractor Oshkosh for $3 billion, and only 20% of the order (10,019 trucks) will be electric.
Newer models will include must-have safety features and basic comforts like air conditioning, but their fuel efficiency will barely improve over the old 1980s model: 8.6 miles per gallon with the air conditioner on, or 14.7 miles per gallon without A/C.
Critics have messed up the plan.
When the USPS originally announced the plan in February, it planned to buy just 5,000 electric trucks. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which reviewed the USPS estimate, criticized the organization for not moving quickly enough to electrify its delivery trucks. “The Postal Service’s proposal as it is currently being developed represents a critical missed opportunity to more quickly reduce the carbon footprint of one of the world’s largest government fleets,” the EPA Associate Administrator wrote. Vicki Arroyo, in a statement. February 2 letter (pdf) at USPS.
So after public outcry, EPA denialand one February 24 Congressional Hearing in which lawmakers grilled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for not moving faster to electrify the mail fleet, the USPS moved slightly. On March 24, he doubled the size of its initial electric truck order of 5,000 to 10,019 trucks.
USPS disagrees that electric trucks are cheaper
FedEx, Walmart, UPS and Amazon are all placing massive orders for electric delivery trucks. Amazon alone plans to buy 100,000 electric trucks. They save money, says Mitch Jackson, FedEx’s chief sustainability officer. “This experience we’ve had over the last decade with electric vehicles…not only did they have high operational efficiency and performance, but they were also cheaper to operate,” Jackson says NPR. The company will only buy electric pickup and delivery vehicles by 2030.
The USPS disagrees. He says he would save about $3.3 billion in total cost of ownership (including truck list price, fuel and maintenance over the next 20 years) by buying conventional vehicles, according to a December 2021 report USPS report (pdf). Ordering 100% electric trucks would increase manufacturing costs, but reduce operational expenses as well as the Post’s carbon emissions by 865,000 metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking 186,000 passenger cars off the road. Instead, the agency’s “preferred alternative” is to buy 10% electric trucks and 90% gasoline trucks, reducing emissions by just 290,000 metric tons.
Reviews, including EPA, challenged the USPS’ cost of ownership estimate. The figure is based on the assumption that gas will cost $2.14 in 2022 and increase to just $2.55 by 2040. The national average price of gas in the United States is currently $4.24, and has more than doubled over the past two decades. Companies with billions of dollars at stake are also betting that electric vehicles will be cheaper than their existing fleets.