– Feb. 25th 2021 6:31 pm ET
The Postmaster General for the United States Postal Service (USPS) recently committed to 10% of its new fleet going full-electric. The upgrade was announced this past week and will replace 50,000-165,000 vehicles over the next 10 years. The USPS’ current ICE lineup of LLV’s (long-life vehicles) is near 30 years old.
As Electrek previously covered, the USPS’ initial contract was awarded to Oshkosh Corporation for $482 million. Oshkosh Corp. is a Wisconsin-based defense contractor known for building military vehicles. The final decision came from Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy. DeJoy was appointed last May by the USPS Board of Directors, all of whom were selected by Donald Trump.
The initial announcement of the contract with Oshkosh Corp. mentioned a mix of both ICE and electric vehicles. The news was met with surprise and disappointment from many that believed the next USPS fleet would be entirely electric, especially after the Biden administration announced plans a mere month ago to transition the entire government fleet to EVs. This includes post office vehicles.
The USPS can’t commit to more than 10% electric?
Congress asked DeJoy why the USPS couldn’t commit to more than 10% of the new vehicles to be fully-electric. He responded that the USPS doesn’t have the 3 or 4 extra billion it would take to do it. DeJoy followed up by stating he was willing to talk to Congress and the Biden administration about additional funding.
Why DeJoy didn’t make efforts to work with Congress and the President before signing a contract with Oshkosh remains unclear. It’s also unclear exactly how much an extensive electric rollout would cost in comparison. With that said, it’s reasonable to believe it would cost significantly more.
In fact, the USPS was previously in talks with Workhorse Group Inc., providing the Board of Governors with a bid for an all-electric postal fleet. The USPS rejected the proposal.
DeJoy said the USPS will ensure upcoming ICE vehicles are built on a platform that’s more easily convertible to electric. When that conversion might happen is also unclear. Nevertheless, the USPS has allotted $500 million to this cause.
Yesterday, President Biden revealed intentions to appoint new members to the three vacant seats on the USPS Board of Directors. This move would solidify a Democratic majority on the board and offer bipartisanship. It would also give the board power to remove DeJoy from his position. That is, if it feels he is unfit for the role.
Environmental advocates probably won’t settle for anything less than 100% electric vehicles. However, there should be some understanding behind a mixed fleet – at least to start. One could argue that some rural areas might not have the charging infrastructure to support electric postal vehicles yet.
Furthermore, an ICE vehicle could serve better during harsh winter climates. Nevertheless, a 10% commitment in a “mixed fleet” feels like a slap in the face. Such a small portion of a potentially enormous contract feels more like an appeasement than a genuine rally toward zero-emissions.
Louis DeJoy says the USPS has agreed to commit $500 million toward converting the ICE vehicles to electric someday. However, this feels like a punt that will end up costing the government more in the long run. It may end up as someone else’s problem anyway, especially since President Biden is being urged by House Democrats to fill the vacant USPS board seats.
The White House has not made any comments yet. Although, a majority on the board would offer a tremendous opportunity for the Biden Administration to get its electric federal fleet plans back on track. We will keep a close eye on it and see.
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About the Author
Scooter Doll is a writer, designer and tech enthusiast born in Chicago and based on the West Coast. When he’s not offering the latest tech how tos or insights, he’s probably watching Chicago sports.
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