USPS under fire for terrible fuel economy of new mail truck
The U.S. Postal Service’s new fleet would be less efficient than a Hummer H1 and only marginally more frugal than aging outbound vehicles, the EPA warned, throwing an EV roadblock in the multibillion-dollar overhaul of how mail Americans comes. Although the USPS has secured a 10-year deal for as many as 165,000 distinctively designed vehicles – worth up to $6 billion – concerns have been raised that the opportunity to electrification is wasted.
The current mail carrier fleet is aging and arguably long overdue an overhaul. Produced between 1987 and 1994, the Grumman LLV was a custom design for the USPS, with features such as a curbside seating position for the driver, sliding doors, a particularly tight turning radius for greater maneuverability and a load capacity of 1,000 lbs.
It was also built to last, even given the harsh conditions it would face. A lifespan of 20 years was originally planned, but was later extended to three decades. However, this also means that the fleet’s old engine design – first a 2.5-litre inline-four, then a 2.2-litre version, paired with a low-speed three-speed transmission – isn’t exactly known to be effective. This is an area that observers hoped the new USPS fleet would improve on, but that may not be the case.
While the new Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) – designed by Oshkosh Corp, with the vehicles expected to be delivered over the next decade – certainly looks more futuristic, their gasoline-powered drivetrain isn’t a game-changer, it seems . In a letter from White House Environmental Quality Council Chair Brenda Mallory, the EPA’s “serious concerns” about the environmental review being conducted by the USPS prompted a request for a postponement of the final agreement with Oskhosh Corp.
The EPA pointed out that the economy of the new vehicles would barely improve over the actual numbers of the current, 30-year-old design. That gets, on average, 8.2 mpg calculated by the EPA, Reuters reports. The new USPS fleet, on the other hand, should manage just 8.6 mpg. That would mean “barely improving over the decades of old, long-lived vehicles” they were replacing.
As for the Postal Service’s plans to make 10% of the new fleet fully electric, that too is woefully insufficient, according to the EPA and the White House. After ten years, according to EPA calculations, the relevant annual fleet emissions would have been reduced by only 21.7%. Meanwhile, over the two decades of gasoline-powered vehicles’ expected life, they would have collectively emitted the same amount of carbon dioxide as five coal-fired power plants, or 4.3 million passenger vehicles.
In the letter, Mallory argues that the vehicle’s redesign “presents a critical opportunity to harness modern clean technologies, reduce pollution and maintain competitiveness over the coming decades.” It calls for 70% electrification of the fleet by the end of the decade, well above the 10% currently envisioned by the USPS and Oshkosh Corp. In the process, the Biden administration’s Build Back Better Act would contribute up to $6 billion to the USPS, for things like BEVs and charging infrastructure.
As for the Postal Service, he argues that such an aggressive plan to embrace electrification could run into trouble when it comes to legal requirements for the organization’s operations.
“While we can understand why some who are not responsible for the financial viability of the Postal Service might prefer that we acquire more electric vehicles, the law requires us to be self-sufficient,” he said in a statement. Although the USPS insists that it is in compliance with current environmental review requirements, it is nevertheless “willing to accelerate the pace of electrification of our delivery fleet if a solution can be found for the do that is not financially detrimental to the Postal Service. ”
Mallory warned in her letter that if the USPS does not voluntarily improve its review process, it could face action by Congress or the US federal courts to do so instead. The first NGDVs were expected to enter service by 2023.