The Largest Electric Vehicle Fleet In The US Will Belong To…The US Postal Service

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Electric vehicle advocates have been pressuring the US Postal Service to come up with a meaty decarbonization plan, and things are finally starting to cook. The latest news involves Ford Motor Company’s E-Transit electric delivery van, which is delivering the zero emission goods despite having not having received much of the media spotlight.

Who Wore It Best: Electric Pickup Trucks Vs. Electric Delivery Vans

EV fans were shocked and saddened by the news that Ford is cutting back on production of the much-hyped F-150 Lightning pickup truck, but perhaps the company is revamping its electric vehicle strategy to position the Lightening as a kind of zero emission sporting vehicle, emphasizing performance over cargo space. Drivers and fleet managers who prioritize cargo space are more likely to go for a delivery van, and the electric delivery van space is getting hotter by the minute.

Zero emission startups like Japan’s HW Electro and Canoo have begun crowding into the action, which means that legacy auto makers like Ford will have to work hard to stay one step ahead of the competition. For Ford, that meant introducing an electric version of its popular Transit van back in 2021, which it slipped under the media radar while everyone was distracted by the launch of the company’s new all-electric Mustang Mach-E and the F-150 Lightning.

The name of the vehicle suggests that its main use is to move people around but the Transit has gained a following as as an all-purpose work vehicle with a much larger, fully enclosed cargo space than a pickup truck could muster.

“Nevertheless, for all the fuss made over EVs as personal cars, electrifying a work vehicle like the Ford Transit is a key step along the global decarbonization journey,” CleanTechnica noted.

We also speculated that the US Postal Service could kick its electrification plans into gear with an assist from the E-Transit and other off-the-shelf electric vehicles, and that is exactly what happened (see more E-Transit coverage here).

More EV Charging Stations For The USPS

The Postal Service has been weathering its share of bad press in recent days. Among other issues, the price of a stamp just went up on January 21. That could explain why they decided to hold a media event drawing attention to their electrification journey the very next day, on January 22.

The splashy event took place at the new South Atlanta Sorting and Delivery Center in Georgia, featuring officials from the White House and a brand new set of EV charging stations.

The  South Atlanta S&DC is not a one-off. It represents a comprehensive plan for re-configuring the Postal Service’s entire mail sorting and delivery infrastructure.

The plan sparked some controversy  when it was introduced in 2022. It involves consolidating some operations into 400 facilities around the country under the S&DC designation, one of which is the South Atlanta S&DC.

Putting aside the controversy, today’s event aimed to show how those 400 S&DC facilities will support the electrification of the Postal Service’s massive vehicle fleet, by doubling as local EV charging station hubs.

The Postal Service anticipates that the hub structure will ensure that an overnight charge for the new electric vehicles will provide plenty of juice to get through the next day’s delivery route.

“Charging stations like these will be installed at hundreds of new S&DCs across the country throughout the year and will power what will be the nation’s largest EV fleet,” the Postal Service enthused.

About That New Electric Vehicle Plan…

If you caught that thing about the nation’s largest electric vehicle fleet, that’s still a work in progress, and it’s complicated.

Since the 1980’s, the Postal Service has been relying on a vintage fleet of about 230,000 Grumman Long-Life Vehicle delivery trucks. These are purpose-built mail delivery trucks that were designed to cut costs by staying in service for much longer than the typical fleet vehicle, but their time has clearly come and gone.

In 2021, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy proposed replacing all of the LLVs with a whole new fleet of purpose-built trucks under a “Next Generation Delivery Vehicle” contract with the firm Oshkosh. The boo-birds came out in force when DeJoy also announced that only about 10% of the new NGDV fleet would be electric.

That’s not quite as bad as it may seem. Oshkosh designed its NGDV to accommodate either batteries or an internal combustion engine, depending on the wishes of the client. The company has also noted that the gasmobile version is designed to enable a relatively quick conversion to electric drive, if desired.

Still, the idea of passing up a golden opportunity to accelerate the electric vehicle revolution provoked plenty of pushback. With a financial assist from Congress, DeJoy eventually revised the plan to include the purchase of off-the-shelf electric vehicles to supplement the Oshkosh NGDV contract.

As things stand now, the Post Service is committed to buying more than 66,000 electric vehicles, with the first batch to be deployed in Georgia.

Who’s Afraid Of The ESG?

As for why the Postal Service chose an S&DC in Georgia to showcase its new EV charging stations out of 400 others, that’s a good question.

Part of the answer is pretty straightforward. The Postal Service has only completed about two dozen or so S&DC facilities, which limits the range of options for showing off an S&DC.

In addition, Georgia makes sense a lot of sense as a showcase for a public electric vehicle fleet, because Georgia has been emerging as a showcase for the rebirth of the US automobile industry and the electric vehicle revolution, thanks in part to low labor costs and generous public subsidies.

On the other hand, though, last March Georgia Governor Brian Kemp officially attached Georgia to a letter that warned against putting decisions about public investment “in the hands of the woke mob.” The letter is part of a multi-state effort to obstruct public investment in renewable energy and other decarbonization ventures.

The letter was organized by Florida Governor and former presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, so consider the source. Still, it’s an odd look for a state to showcase a major decarbonization initiative involving a substantial public investment while its Governor warns against such things.

For that matter, Governor Kemp did not add his two cents to the Postal Service press release today, but that could have more to do with the Inflation Reduction Act than the woke mob.

The Electric Vehicle Revolution Is Here To Stay

On his part, Postmaster DeJoy seems eager to move past the controversies surrounding his tenure as Postmaster General, a position he assumed in June of 2020 by appointment of the Postal Service Board of Governors during the administration of former President Trump.

He certainly was not shy about expressing the carbon-cutting benefits of the S&DC overhaul.

“As we transform our operating processes and invest in new automation, new technologies, and upgraded facilities and vehicles, we will generate significant efficiencies that reduce our costs, slash our carbon footprint and minimize waste,” DeJoy said in a press statement this morning (emphasis added).

He also gave a shout-out to the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which has been credited with moving the needle on decarbonizing the US economy.

“We are grateful for the support of Congress and the Biden Administration through Inflation Reduction Act funding, which helped enable the electrification in evidence here today,” he said.

“The procurement of EVs and charging stations is enabled by the Postal Service’s overall network modernization efforts — which allow more rapid EV deployment — as well as its improving financial condition, which includes $3 billion in congressional funding appropriated under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA),” the Postal Service emphasizes.

The fleet of 66,000 new electric vehicles will include 9,250 E-Transit vans along with other off-the-shelf models, for a total of 21,000. In the meantime, Oshkosh is expected to deliver at least 45,000 of its electric NGDVs by 2028.

Don’t be surprised to see Canoo in the EV mix. The key element is the ability to swap the steering wheel from the left-hand side to the right-hand side, which Canoo has. Last fall, the Canoo fan site canooers.com took note of some flexibility in the Postal Service’s electric vehicle plans, so stay tuned for more on that.

Follow me @tinamcasey on Bluesky, Threads, Post, and LinkedIn.

Image: Ford E-Transit electric vehicle makes the US Postal Service’s EV cut (courtesy of Ford Motor Company).


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