Postmaster General Louis DeJoy placed the order for the first 50,000 NGDVs on March 24; 20% of this purchase was for electric vehicles.
The Postal Service’s plan falls far short of White House goals to transition the entire federal civilian fleet to electric vehicles by 2035. The Postal Agency’s 217,000 vehicles make up the largest share of vehicles government civilians.
Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and even the rise in sales of electric vehicles – which account for about 5% of new vehicle sales – has yet to make a dent. significant in the automotive market. Proponents of electric vehicles hoped the Postal Service purchase would give the industry a boost.
Private sector fleets have overtaken the federal government on electrification in recent years, and the White House and electric vehicle boosters say a green postal fleet would incentivize manufacturers to build infrastructure for more electric vehicles and charging stations they need nationwide.
Victoria Stephen, the Postal Service’s NGDV program manager, will testify before the panel, panel chair Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.) announced Thursday, along with Postal Service Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb.
Whitcomb’s office released a report this month that found electric vehicles would be well suited for mail delivery duties and save the agency money in the long run.
“It is critical to our environment and our future that the Postal Service quickly transitions to an electric fleet,” Maloney said in a statement. “The federal government should lead the way and not fall behind private companies that are already moving forward to save money and curb climate change by electrifying their fleets.
Top Democrats on the committee, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Gerald E. Connolly (Virginia), have already lobbied federal officials to delay plans to electrify federal vehicles.
Senate Liberals reacted Thursday to DeJoy’s initial order for the trucks, urging the Postmaster General to “significantly increase the percentage of electric vehicles” purchased by the Postal Service. Nineteen upper house Democrats, led by Senators Jeff Merkley (Oregon) and Thomas R. Carper (Del.), demanded that the agency provide records of its electric vehicle analyzes and detailed accounting information on its transactions with Oshkosh.
“The USPS represents approximately one-third of the federal fleet and the actions taken by the USPS will have a significant impact on whether the United States does its part to combat climate chaos,” the senators wrote. “While investing in a minimum of 20% postal electric vehicles is an improvement, the USPS needs to do more. Not only does the USPS’s current plan to invest in primarily fossil-fuel vehicles endanger public health and the environment, but the decision also comes at a time when companies like Federal Express (FedEx) and United Parcel Service (UPS) are increasingly turning to electricity. vehicles for economic reasons.
Amazon plans to buy 100,000 electric pickup trucks, aiming for half of its deliveries to be carbon neutral by 2030. It also has a roughly 20% stake in electric truck maker Rivian. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
FedEx and UPS have also made electric vehicles a small but steadily growing part of their fleets. Since 2019, almost 1.5% of the FedEx fleet – including delivery trucks, forklifts and airport ground service equipment – were at least partially battery-operated.
But postal executives argue that a largely electric fleet would be too expensive, citing the high upfront cost of electric vehicles and associated infrastructure. The Postal Service Environmental Impact Statement for NGDVs calculated that gasoline-powered vehicles would be more cost effective over their expected 20-year lifespan. Independent auto and environmental experts said the agency’s figures are inaccurate and the courier service would save money in the long run on lower fuel costs and maintenance, although electric vehicles have higher initial costs.
The Inspector General’s report supported these arguments. “Electric vehicles are generally more mechanically reliable than gasoline-powered vehicles and would require less maintenance,” the report said. “Energy costs will be lower for electric vehicles because using electricity to power an electric vehicle is cheaper than using gasoline.”
NGDVs are hardly an environmental improvement over the agency’s current “Long Life Vehicles” or LLVs. With the air conditioning on, they get 8.6 mpg, which is 0.4 mpg more than existing vehicles. Experts say the industry standard for gas-powered delivery vehicles today is 12 to 14 mpg.
Electric vehicles would offer 70 miles per charge, the agency said, figures that auto experts and government regulators say grossly underestimate their capability.
When it awarded Oshkosh the truck contract in February 2021, the Postal Service said the company could convert gasoline-powered vehicles to run on batteries as the agency’s financial situation and technology improves. electric vehicles are improving. But post officials said they had “no plans” to upgrade any of the vehicles.
The Environmental Protection Agency predicts that greenhouse gas emissions from the Postal Service’s new gas-powered trucks would total nearly 20 million metric tons over the vehicles’ expected 20-year lifespan, roughly matching the annual emissions from 4.3 million passenger vehicles.
In an interview with The Washington Post, DeJoy said he was not opposed to buying more electric trucks, but that funding should come from Congress and only from Postal Service accounts if the company’s financial situation agency is improving. He said he was focused on replacing the agency’s failing fleet, not electrifying it.
“From my perspective, my job is to deliver mail and packages,” he said. “The nation’s fleet electrification policy is a mission I will support. But I would be remiss to spend all my money on it.
The 10,019 electric vehicles the Postal Service requested in its first order from Oshkosh match 10,019 mail routes that DeJoy said he knows will be a “slam dunk” for trucks.
“That’s how I make decisions as we move forward,” he said. “When I go to buy the next amount, we will reassess.”
Policymakers on both sides of the aisle agree that the postal agency’s aging LLVs are unsafe and in dire need of replacement. The LLVs are 30 years old and have no airbags or air conditioning. They have been known to catch fire after years of overuse.
They are also unsuited to the changing activities of the postal service. DeJoy has positioned the agency to compete more heavily in package shipping with competitors such as UPS, FedEx and Amazon. LLVs are far too small to handle the pandemic influx of Postal Service packages. And where the agency’s mail business has shrunk by 45% since 2008, its parcel business has more than doubled. NGDVs have a lot more cargo space to hold packages.
Congressional owners are divided on how or whether to fund the new postal fleet. The Postal Agency has about $24 billion in cash on hand after lawmakers in 2020 approved a $10 billion emergency pandemic grant. And Congress voted in March to overhaul the agency’s finances, relieving it of $107 billion in outstanding amounts and future payments.
Republicans, reluctant to approve spending for President Biden’s climate goals, said DeJoy should continue with his mostly gas-powered fleet. Democrats seem torn between allowing more funds for electric NGDVs and battery charging stations, and encouraging the Postal Service to spend the money it already has.
The Biden administration’s initial “Build Back Better” social spending package contained $6 billion for electric mail trucks and battery chargers. Biden’s 2023 budget proposal includes $300 million for electric mail vehicles and charging stations.
“The Postal Service has about a quarter of a million vehicles today, and all of those vehicles rely on infrastructure that currently exists, namely gasoline and diesel vehicles,” Kan said. “If we buy 10,000 electric vehicles and deploy them in Montana or some rural parts of the country, there may not be grid electrification to support those vehicles.”
“The biggest pitfall of any long-running procurement is rushing in too quickly and getting ahead of your organization’s ability to absorb technology,” Tangherlini added. “So what I would like to understand is how does the Postal Service plan to adapt to a change in this technology?”
Anna Phillips contributed to this report.