Despite the United States Postal Service (USPS) having recently finalized its plan to award Oshkosh Defense a $482 million contract to replace its ramshackle fleet with sparkly new Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDV), Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said it could only afford to make 10 percent of the fleet electric. The USPS would allegedly need another 3 or 4 billion dollars in government assistance to make BEVs happen in meaningful numbers and some lawmakers seem happy to oblige.
A bill sponsored by House Representative Jared Huffman (a California Democrat), introduced on Monday, seeks to allocate $6 billion to increase the number of EVs used by the USPS — with the stipulation that at least 75 percent of the motor pool be zero-emission vehicles. The original plan estimated expenditures of roughly $6.3 billion over the duration of the 10-year program to modernize the United States’ postal fleet. But the service ultimately decided to go with Oshkosh’s internal combustion model, rather than the electric prototypes offered by other manufacturers.
This is at odds with the Biden administration’s promise to transition all government fleets to electric propulsion, though many have suggested that a mixed fleet would actually be preferable. EVs seem ideal for urban parcel deliveries while internal combustion remains the stalwart option for long trips and heavy loads until battery technology improves. The bill appears to account for this by requiring a minimum of half of the USPS’ medium and heavy-duty vehicle purchases to be electric or zero-emission through 2029. All new trucks will need to be zero emissions by 2040, however.
According to Reuters, the proposal is backed by over a dozen key Democrats, including Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Representative Carolyn Maloney, who chairs the Oversight and Reform Committee that oversees the USPS.
“We welcome and are interested in any support from Congress that advances the goal of a Postal Service vehicle fleet with zero emissions, and the necessary infrastructure required to operate it,” the USPS said on Monday. “With the right level of support, the majority of the Postal Service’s fleet can be electric by the end of the decade.”
To be fair, the majority of the Postal Service’s fleet could have also been electric by the end of the decade had it chosen another manufacturer (e.g. Workhorse). But we understand that the chance to toss money at well-connected defense contractors is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the federal government. Er… wait… That happens all the time.
We’re not totally unsympathetic, though. Oshkosh is arguably the company best suited to tackle this from a production standpoint and optioning more internal combustion vehicles probably does maximize their overall utility. The USPS was also spending over a billion dollars per year just keeping its old fleet running, something it says will end once the NGDV has supplanted the old beaters. But there’s something annoying and wholly predictable about the government talking up how the Postal Service would be going all-electric for months, only to see it make an antithetical decision and then state that it needs more money.