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13 environmental groups urge USPS to select plug-ins for next-generation delivery vehicles

Thirteen environmental groups working on clean transportation solutions sent a letter to the United States Postal Service (USPS) urging it to select plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) for the next generation of delivery vehicles (NGDV). The USPS fleet travels more than 1.3 billion miles every year and uses more than 180 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGE) of fuel.

Two of the five vehicles USPS are currently considering for the next generation of delivery trucks are plug-in models, the environmental organizations said. The winner of the contract will be announced in early 2018, with deployment likely to begin in Q1 2020. If an electric model is selected, the USPS fleet would be the largest electric vehicle fleet in the world.

The USPS operates a fleet of more than 200,000 vehicles in all areas of the United States and its territories; approximately 163,000 of these are right-hand drive, light-duty carrier route vehicles (CRVs) purchased between 1987 and 2001. These vehicles are rear-wheel driven, powered by internal combustion engines, and of aluminum body-on-frame design. The payload capacity is approximately 1,400 pounds.

These vehicles are near the end of their designed useful life. The USPS intends to retire this fleet in coming years, and to replace the vehicles with Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDVs).

The USPS publicly began the Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDV) acquisition program in January 2015 with a Request for Information (RFI). A Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued in October 2015 which included a statement of objectives in response to feedback received from the supplier community and other stakeholders. In 2016, the Postal Service awarded contracts to six prime suppliers who together were to produce 50 prototype vehicles as part of the next phase of the NGDV acquisition process. Half of the prototypes would feature hybrid and new technologies, including alternative fuel capabilities, USPS said at the time.

Since then, the pool has shrunk to five: three single companies—AM General, Oshkosh and Mahindra—and two collaborations—VT Hackney/Workhorse and Karsan/Morgan Olson.

Public details on the vehicles are scant, although the VT Hackney/Workhorse candidate is a range-extended electric vehicle. VT Hackney is building the body of the prototype vehicles while Workhorse Group is providing the chassis and powertrain. Karson/Morgan is making a hybrid truck that is also being considered.

The USPS received prototype NGDV vehicles the week of 18 September; actual testing by letter carriers began the week of 2 October. Testing sites include Flint and Utica, MI; Falls Church and Leesburg, VA; and Tempe and Tucson, AZ. On a three-week rotating basis, the vehicles will be used over the next six months during normal delivery operations in these diverse weather environments.

Testing will focus on each prototype’s comfort, usability, functionality, ergonomics, performance, operations, and so on. Additionally, testing of the vehicles’ durability, components and fuel economy will be conducted by engineers at third-party laboratories.

The environmental organizations signing the letter include:

  • CALSTART
  • Electric Auto Association
  • Environment America
  • Environmental Law and Policy Center
  • Forth
  • Natural Resource Council of Maine
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Oregon Environmental Council
  • Plug In America
  • Public Citizen
  • Safe Climate Campaign
  • Sierra Club
  • Union of Concerned Scientists

Comments

mahonj

EVs would make sense in urban areas for air quality reasons.
They might be a bit expensive for more rural areas.

Herman

A modern engine with mild electrification will make a gigantic difference in the USPS fuel use and emissions profile. The current Long Life Vehicle (LLV) fleet built '87-'94 uses the ancient 2.5L Iron Duke engine, really a commercially non-viable engine even then.

Using the Mahindra version as an example -- with the new (and completely unrelated) GM 2.5L e-assist -- the old 9mpg metric for the LLV will rise by at least 4-5mpg. So you get a 50% reduction in fuel use (and by extension CO2), along with >80% drop in unburned CHO and NOx, for an affordable price and no plugs. These improvements are good enough to please most taxpayers.

The price target for the NGDV is stated as "$25-35k each". A pure EV won't fit in this target, and the infrastructure cost, while not really that huge, isn't trivial. EVSEs for over 100,000 vehicles are not in the budget. My math says it's not likely that a strong hybrid will make the cut, but of course that would be the best compromise.

Above all, there's no assurance that the project will even happen.

(IMO the "right" choice would be an plug-in REx architecture like that proposed by VT Hackney and Workhorse. WAAAAY too expensive.)

HarveyD

Since pollution emission is still free, USPS will keep using lower cost polluting vehicles until they have to pay for all the pollution created?

Calgarygary

On average each vehicle currently uses about 900 gallons per year but according to Herman a modern ice vehicle might use say 630 gallons so at $3 per gallon the fuel cost is say $1900 while the electricity costs for a comparable EV would be say $600. That gives a savings of $1300/year on energy and perhaps another 100-200 on maintenance like oil changes and brake service. So based on those metrics there could be savings of around $15,000. After 10 years the batteries may need replacement but by then one would expect lower cost, improved batteries, whereas an ICE choice might be obsolete by 2030 (especially for applications like USPS delivery). Of course traditional style USPS delivery might be obsolete by 2030 as well. I'd think a $15 - 20,000 premium for a EV might be reasonable so long as it can do the job.

Christopher Miles

The Stop and Go nature of postal routes seem a perfect match for electric vehicles.

One would have hoped that COTS /Off the shelf vehicles could have been in the bidding mix.

Herman

The desireability of BEVs notwithstanding, there is a procurement spec for the vehicle and a budget line item authorization associated with that. If a lower-priced vehicle that meets the spec can be selected it will be; changing the selection criteria and project budget to pick something else would endanger the likelihood of continuation and eventual production launch. And the letter from concerned taxpayers carries zero weight.

Gary, I don't disagree with your math, but it doesn't account for cost of money, which is not zero. $15k of savings over ten years doesn't come close to "paying" for $10-15k up front. And don't forget infrastucture. Also, the idea that the truck might be obsolete by 2030 is refuted by the LLV. The median age for these old dogs is 26, and most of them are on the road still. The plan is that the last NGDV built in ~2024 will be in service in 2045 (if not longer).

Calgarygary

I realize there is a cost to the extra up-front capital that I didn't include in my calculation. Just wanted to keep it simple. At 5% amortized over 10 years a $15,000 premium might amount to around $500 per year on average but if the price of gasoline goes up faster then the payback might be faster.

I'm not sure why they would want to replace the entire fleet over a short period. In current time of uncertainty a phased approach might make more sense. They are not like a fleet of fighter jets where uniformity and standardization are critical?

For me though it is mainly a gut instinct because if they are to be "long life" I think I'd sooner have a fleet of primarily EV delivery vans in 2030 rather than ICE ones. By then surely that sort of app will be best serviced by an EV.

It will be interesting to see what is chosen.

Gasbag

@CalgaryGary

Your numbers are legit but not applicable. Re-read the article. 1.3 billion miles, 200K vehicles. That works out to a average of less than 21 miles per work day....and that is an arithmetic average. Because a small number of vehicles contribute a disproportionate amount of miles the median is actually significantly lower. The majority of postal routes do not exceed 15 miles!!

My carrier says in 15 years she has never had a load that was as much as 200 Lbs. Never! So we're talking about light loads and low speed stop and go city miles. Conservatively they should be able to get 5 miles / kWhr meaning the battery would not need to be large.
A GEM eM 1400 LSV modified to be enclosed and with a custom box should be doable for a price around 15K. No need to squander billions on ICEVs initially that may cost additional hundreds of millions of annually.

The RFP was probably written to exclude cost effective solutions. This is the type of boondoggle that should be investigated.

CheeseEater88

I think it's idiotic not to use off the shelf vehicles.

Almost every other delivery van i see out there is some variant of a box truck, or a sprinter type van. What does the post office do, that these other vehicles wouldn't suffice?

Ford, GM almost any full line brand would probably upfit or make hybrids available in the segment just to win the contract, if it included mass produced derivatives.

A hybrid, with 30miles range and plug in capability would reduce 70% of thier fuel consumption fleet wide. If they used an upfitted transit connect of something like it, they'd be fine. Even if they went with a much smaller car like a b or c class hatchback.

Wind rain sleet and snow, make full ev options a hard sell, currently with the current cost of batteries.

Basically anything would be better than what we have now. But it's sad that current OEMs like the big three or any of the others won't even be considered.

And Bri

Even if a were famous and rich i will still own and drive my actual car, a gas Hyundai accent 6 speeds 2014. This is not taste or budget, this is applied science, is it clear now ?

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