US Postal Service finally places an order for EVs—but there’s a catch

After a two-year campaign to avoid electrifying its fleet, the US Postal Service has announced plans to do what it should have done in 2021. The agency will purchase 9,250 off-the-shelf Ford E-Transits as a first batch of replacements for its 30-year-old Grumman LLV delivery vehicles. Delivery of the EVs is expected to begin this December.

It’s a step forward, and the pro-EV media rightly celebrated the move. However, few media outlets have reported that the USPS’s latest announcement includes what might be described as a poke in the eye to President Biden and his goal of electrifying the federal fleet—in addition to the Ford EVs, the agency will buy 9,259 combustion-engine Ram ProMaster vans.

The good news is that USPS indicates that most of its new vehicles will be EVs going forward. As of December 2022, the USPS plans to buy a minimum of 60,000 purpose-built Next Generation Delivery Vehicles, of which at least 45,000 will be battery-electric, by 2028. “Acquisitions delivered in 2026 and thereafter [are] expected to be 100% electric.”

In addition to the NGDVs, which will be built by defense contractor Oshkosh, the Postal Service “expects to purchase an additional 21,000 battery-electric delivery vehicles through 2028, representing a mix of commercial off-the-shelf vehicles.”

The bad news, of course, is that ICE vehicles are still very much part of the plan, and future political changes could turn the tide back towards gasoline. From the beginning of the oily soap opera, Republican Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has framed the EV-vs-ICE issue as a financial one, and by all accounts, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included $3 billion in funding specifically for USPS electrification, was what tipped the balance in favor of EVs. If a future, redder Congress reduces USPS funding, December’s electric promises could go up in smoke.

In addition to the 9,250 Ford E-Transits, USPS will purchase 14,000 EV charging stations “to support EV charging at the facilities from which the delivery vehicles will operate.” The agency “plans to begin building out its charging infrastructure across a minimum of 75 locations within the next 12 months, and thereafter to continue the infrastructure build-out in the succeeding years at many additional facilities.”

USPS will invest some $260 million in the new chargers, which will be supplied by Blink Charging, Siemens and Rexel USA.

“We are moving forward with our plans to simultaneously improve our service, reduce our cost, grow our revenue, and improve the working environment for our employees,” said DeJoy. “Electrification of our vehicle fleet is now an important component of these initiatives. We have developed a strategy that mitigates both cost and risk of deployment.”

Sources: USPS, Reuters, Electrek, Electrive

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