back to article US postal service electrifyies its next-gen delivery fleet

The United States Postal Service announced today that "at least" three quarters of its planned fleet of next generation delivery vehicles (NGDVs) would be electric, marking a sharp departure from fossil fuel-heavy fleet plans announced in 2021. Beginning in 2026, the USPS said all the NGDVs it purchased would be electric, …

  1. nautica Silver badge

    With a "quantum computer"? With "cold fusion"? With "superstrings"? Nope; with no spell-checker.


    "US postal service electrifyies its next-gen delivery fleet"

    That's certainly one way to generate 'clicks'.

    1. Dimmer Bronze badge

      Re: With a "quantum computer"? With "cold fusion"? With "superstrings"?

      So, what happens when there is a requirement to not charge vehicles during shortage or brownouts? Not quite a work from home job.

      It would be neat in the cities that when they park, to do a large building they could just plug in.

      1. gecho

        Re: With a "quantum computer"? With "cold fusion"? With "superstrings"?

        Large fleet operators often have their own onsite fuel tanks. I don't see it being any different with EVs. Several shipping container sized batteries to act as a buffer so they aren't hammering the grid.

        Public EV charging stations will likely need on site battery storage as well to help balance demand. They can recharge their storage at night when power is cheaper, or through solar on the charging station canopies.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: With a "quantum computer"? With "cold fusion"? With "superstrings"?

          Electric Walmart trucks are hogging some of the public fast-chargers in Orlando.

          It's generating (see what I did there) a lot of pissed off people.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: With a "quantum computer"? With "cold fusion"? With "superstrings"?

          "Large fleet operators often have their own onsite fuel tanks. I don't see it being any different with EVs. Several shipping container sized batteries to act as a buffer so they aren't hammering the grid."

          The city I am in, the post office leases their building. Installing an on-site fueling system isn't going to be an easy thing and the city isn't too big so contracting for fuel with the local gas station is much less expensive. I'm not sure if the US Post Office, being a quasi-government agency, isn't exempt from fuel taxes.

          I don't even think that many post offices will need a backup battery of any great size. They'll be able to charge at night, every night. I've looked into a battery for my home once I've installed solar panels and prices have a long way to go before there is any ROI for adding the storage. Once I've added the solar and purchased an EV, the reduced off-peak tariff kills the incentive to add battery storage.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: With a "quantum computer"? With "cold fusion"? With "superstrings"?

        Fleets like this tend to charge overnight when demand is lowest. Yes, as more EVs come online, that will increase nighttime demand. In most regions of the world, there should be plenty of buffer (if you live in a rural area next to a huge paper mill that runs 24x7, you could be an exception.)

        Fleets can also help support the grid during brownouts by doing vehicle to grid (V2G) power transfers. Since this is an IT site, we tend to imagine the vehicles working like a big UPS. We pooh-pooh the idea based on some quick calculations of how many vehicles could run the grid for so many hours, etc.

        In reality, the grid doesn't need to run off the vehicles, instead, the vehicles provide support for the grid (in a brownout situation, often the grid doesn't need real power as much as it needs reactive power, a garage full of trucks could be an amazing source of dispatchable reactive power).

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: With a "quantum computer"? With "cold fusion"? With "superstrings"?

        "So, what happens when there is a requirement to not charge vehicles during shortage or brownouts? "

        The likelihood is that the vehicles will be charged in the wee hours when rates are low and power shortages are very rare. It's the 4-9pm period that's often where peak usage affects the grid.

  2. Winkypop Silver badge

    All these EV plans

    And stuff-all infrastructure going in.

  3. DS999 Silver badge

    30K new gas powered vehicles

    In a fleet of 220K is probably fine, assuming future purchases are 100% electric.

    In most places electric vehicles are fine, since they have a known route they follow every day and always return to the same place where they can slowly recharge everything in the 12 to 18 hours they're parked. Same reason electric school buses make a lot of sense, at least in cities.

    But in less densely populated areas (basically 95% of the land area west of the Mississippi) the postal service will have some rather long delivery routes that exceed the capability of an electric vehicle (or at least today's electric vehicles) while leaving enough safety margin in case they get stranded due to snow or breakdowns when it is cold.

    1. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

      Re: 30K new gas powered vehicles

      It's not exactly like they're rushing things though is it? 66,000 out of 220,000 electric by 2028. That means they are planning to reach 30% in six years.

      Think where electric cars are six years ago by comparison with today.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: 30K new gas powered vehicles

        And in six years they'll be ordering the next tranche of vehicles to replace older ones, and the technology will have matured sufficiently that purchasing all electric ones will make sense.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: 30K new gas powered vehicles

      "But in less densely populated areas (basically 95% of the land area west of the Mississippi)"

      I'd say they'd need a range extended PHEV at the most. Driving 250 miles at 50mph is 5 hours of driving. That's seems to be on the extreme side of things as the average speed will get rapidly reduced through needing to stop and make the deliveries. Keep in mind that the US postal service gets its employees from a union so there are plenty of mandatory breaks and meal periods. There are lots of little post offices all over the US. In some towns, there isn't a nearby gas station but there will be electricity. Being able to recharge at the post office would be a boon. I'm waiting for the post office to also offer boxes at the local offices at a reduced rate in exchange for no at-home delivery. I already have all mail and packages sent to my PO Box and not my home. The downside is the rates for my box keep going up and it's getting very expensive. Someday there will be a Postmaster General that figures out that not delivering on demand can save lots of money.

  4. sanwin

    "Carbon Free"???

    So the US now has "Carbon Free" electricity generation and vehicle production? They've kept that quiet!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No no... the motors are 'carbon free' as they are brushless motors

      And the drivers are issued with ballpoint pens instead of pencils

    2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Nah, it's just that as long as the lithium strip mining and processing doesn't happen in the US it isn't a environmental disaster to some people. As long as said person has a solar panel on THEIR house, they all must be able to charge with a panel. The people who think EVs are green only think so because the EV doesn't have an exhaust pipe. I could probably convince them my big Dodge V8 SUV is green by dumping the exhaust underneath, then pointing out that with no exhaust pipe it must be green.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So who paid for that "decision"?

    Yet another Pay To Play decision by the Administration.

    The original USPS decisions was to replace the current vehicles with gas / diesel vehicles because they were the cheapest to buy, maintain and operate given their fleet mix, history, infrastructure and requirements. EV was prohibitively expensive for their operations. The reversal of the decision for the rejected most expensive EV option was a straight lobbyist kickback decision. Based on past stories like this the amount of political "donations" involved, $10M's, is tiny compared with the final cost to the USPS. And eventually the taxpayer. Billions.

    Given the very precarious financial position of the USPS, due to political interference over the years and the collapse of direct mail bulk deliveries, this decision will end up costing the jobs of many tens of thousands of mail workers and the further reduction in services. Due to the gutting of the parcel service which was direct result of the finical crisis created by a Democratic Congress No Layout bill about two decades ago my annual spending on USPS services dropped from several hundred dollars to maybe $10 p.a.

    What has happened to the USPS is a real tragedy. Always hobbled by political interference with huge long term financial costs to the USPS and its workers. Some of the nicest most pleasant people I've ever dealt with. From local mail carrier to big central post office counter staff. Great people.

    This profoundly stupid politically motivated EV decision will be the death knell of the USPS in its current form. It will survive as a skeleton operation because of its Constitutional status but with a tiny fraction of its current employees. A real tragedy for the workers and their families. They deserve better. A lot better.

    1. Lennart Sorensen

      Re: So who paid for that "decision"?

      Given how horribly obsolete and inefficient the vehicles they were planing to get were, it would have cost a fortune in operational costs. They were a complete joke.

      And nothing can compare to the politically motivated taxpayer funded waste that is the military suppliers. I suppose the for profit healthcare system tries to give it a run for it's money though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So who paid for that "decision"?

        Obsolete and inefficient? Compared to what? Not their current fleet. The selected vehicles fitted well with their current fleet operations. Unlike the EV's.

        And who cares about militarily supplier. We are talking about the USPS here. Pure what-about-ery. And a perfectly reasonable fleet replacement decision being reversed for a very expensive one so the Administration can pay off some political debts to deep pocket donors. Or do you not understand how US politics works?

    2. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

      Re: So who paid for that "decision"?

      Sorry this doesn't make sense. (For you Brits, this game in the US now with the US broken 2 party system is members of 1 party blaming anything they want on the other party.) Given the USPS still ships packages if you want to, I'm not seeing, in any way, how you're personal choice to spend $10 a year on postage when you used to spend $100s is related to decisions Congress made 20 years ago.

      I must agree, the huge drop in junk mail has I'm sure not helped USPS's finances. But I can't shed a tear over this, it was a huge amount of usually non-recycable glossy paper, being printed up, shipped around the country, and instantly thrown into the landfill.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So who paid for that "decision"?..have you actually been inside a post office?

        So in other words you have not the slightest idea about the back story for the dire financial situation with the USPS over the last two decades.

        The No Layoffs Bill was passed at the behests of various USPS unions several decades ago. They paid good money to get it through Congress. This was before the huge decline in volume but the writing was already on the wall. Which is why the unions pushed the bill through. So when the serious volume decline started management had no way of adjusting worker number for quite a few years until the losses became so large that the bill had to be set aside. But by that stage the damage had been done so large areas of traditional USPS services (like low cost parcel post) was abandoned. Its now basically just mail. And very expensive air delivery packages. If you had been using USPS regularly over the last three or four decades you might have noticed this.

        If you want bipartisan political stupidity a Republic Congress passed a bill so the USPS had to recognize in an unreasonably short time the unfunded retirement benefits / health care liabilities the USPS had built up over many decades. Mainly due to Congressional pressure over the decades to keep numbers low for budget reasons. It was after that bill was passed that the number of people working post office counters suffered serious cuts and the long lines became the norm. Even in pretty quiet neighborhoods. But I guess you never noticed that either. You dont sound like a regular customer.

        As for the junk mail. You must live in a very upmarket neighborhood. Or more likely are unfamiliar with print technology. Most of the bulk mailings I received over the decades (in SF) were printed exactly the same as the daily / Sunday newspaper inserts. On newsprint or semi-coated newsprint stock. I saw very little of coated heavier stock. The 200gsm and higher stock. Either way, all was perfectly recyclable. Sure most went straight from the mail box to the recycle bin. But just like the Sunday newspaper ones some were informative and useful. About local businesses. But I never saw a problem with junk mail as I knew how it subsidized daily home delivery of mail.

        Now do you understand why foisting a very expensive EV fleet on an already seriously financially weakened USPS, rather than the one they wanted and can afford, is going to end as very expensive fiasco. Just like the last two times politicians serious interfered in the running of the USPS.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: So who paid for that "decision"?

        "I must agree, the huge drop in junk mail has I'm sure not helped USPS's finances. But I can't shed a tear over this, it was a huge amount of usually non-recycable glossy paper, being printed up, shipped around the country, and instantly thrown into the landfill."

        Not a particularly 'green' operation, junk mail. I learned from a mentor years ago to never bring junk mail into the house/office. Anything obviously junk would go straight in the bin. If something that turned out to be junk was discovered, it went in the rubbish as well.

        All this means is the USPS needs to adapt to the current reality. My local post office could use more parcel lockers. It was so much faster when they put in the first sections and there was a key in my box to retrieve packages rather than a notice to take to the window. I still get the odd notice as there aren't enough lockers. If the post office lobby were bigger, they could contract with some of the big eTailers to allow parcel lockers from them as well. It would be a big savings for somebody such as Amazon if they could skip delivering to each addressee and allow people to pick up from a central location for a bit less.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: So who paid for that "decision"?

      Yet another Pay To Play decision by the Administration

      No, this is fixing a bad decision made by the partisan and unqualified postal service director that Trump installed. The "bought and paid for" decision was buying almost all gas powered vehicles when postal delivery is one of the best possible examples where electric vehicles make sense, what with all the stop and go driving over a known route of known distance. The republican dark money donor base wants to see fossil fuels used as long as possible. Their nightmare is the day when oil usage falls to where the price permanently collapses, rendering all their fossil fuel based investments worthless, they want that day to be as far into the future as possible and will put up as many roadblocks as they can to prevent electrification of transportation.

      These electric vehicles will cost far less to run, and the postal service won't be at the mercy of changes in gas prices. They don't need to wait for charging networks to be built, since there won't be any 'on the go' charging. There is no barrier to adoption, except from small minded fools like you who have been brainwashed to think electric vehicles and green energy are somehow unamerican. Keep rolling coal, dumbass.

    4. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: So who paid for that "decision"?

      The mistake was designing a custom vehicle that's intended to be used for a quarter century or more. The LLVs the postal service uses did achieve that goal but they are completely obsolete by modern standards. It would be a mistake to repeat the process because its quite likely that anything that's state of the art today will be obsolete in a decade or so. Instead of a 'one size fits all' solution the USPS should allow each area to pick its own vehicles, ones most suited for the terrain and topology of the are they're to be used in. They can draw on the experience of other delivery companies (the only issue here would be that they might be restricted to "Buy American" which their competitors are not which might put them at a disadvantage).

      >This profoundly stupid politically motivated EV decision

      EVs have been used for local delivery work for well over 100 years. The preferred alternative for IC motors is CNG. Modern diesels aren't very cost effective -- diesel here (CA) is more expensive than even premium gas and it needs significant emission controls. Hybrids should be good choice for suburban areas. Let the locals figure out what's needed, don't impose a one size fits all solution from the center.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So who paid for that "decision"?..LLV's

        The LLV's worked because although its the typical Federal Contract Camel it worked (good enough) in all the huge range of conditions the USPS have to operate across the 50 states. As would the vehicles chosen a few years ago as their replacement. There is going to be no huge technological breakthrough in the next few decades that will make them "obsolete". Quiet the opposite. Gas vehicle will still be around long after the EV fad has faded as a very expensive fiasco. None of the numbers ever added up. Not in the 1980's Not now.

        There can be no regional vehicle mix and match because its the Federal government here. Thats not how it works. And anyway pretty much every UPS and FedEx truck I've seen over the years has been one of the standard fleet vehicles. Which slowly change over the decades. Very slowly. Its not only the USPS who standardize on a very small number of vehicles. For the whole US.

        As for EV delivery vehicles. In very limited high density short route in temperate climate areas they might work. But there is a very good reason why milk floats went away. For the same reason the grocery shop delivery boy disappeared. Not cost effective. The high density short daily travel USPS routes where EV's might be cost effective are pretty much all foot delivery routes. With EV only USPS vehicles I expect a lot of suburban (not just outer ones either) and rural mail routes to become centralized delivery or weekly pickup only over time.

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Change in stance

    Two big factors in the change of stance:

    1) As for the USPS's previous stance on EVs and such, the insistance on using gas and only gas was not based on repairs or anything, the USPS had a nutjob Trump appointee running things; for a nutjob Trump appointee, he was actually relatively competent. He did some sensible route rearrangement (mainly eliminating some air routes that were there just to guarantee 1 day end-to-end service but were not running even close to full, using enormous amounts of fuel to transport those packages compared to ground transport.) But the decision then of gas and only gas, not even looking into hybrids, was just basically a personal opinion and not looking into the actual costs and benefits. Given the postal vehicles constant stop-and-go, there's no way even a real lemon of a hybrid wouldn't come out far ahead in total costs given the huuuuuge fuel savings in the type of driving the postal vehicles do. The existing vehicles get something like 8MPG average due to the "drive 1 block and stop" type of driving they typically see. It's the exact scenario where the hybrid capturing braking and using it to get the vechile moving will result in huuuge MPG increases.

    2) For whatever reason, the car companies are looking into ditching even hybrids and going straight to EVs. (I'm surprised they didn't stick with hybrids longer. But OK.) It seems like even a few years ago, you had Tesla, you had Chevy Volt (before it went off the market), and you had some companies making "one offs (not quite, but selling 100s of some vehicle, usually not even 1000.) You now have several car companies claiming they'll go all-electric in the next couple years, electric models from almost every car company (you can get an electric Dodge minivan even), it seems like the technology has really matured. Even 2 or 3 years ago, I would not have advocated for all-electric postal vehicles either, times have changed! They STILL drive some of those postal vehicles they bought in the late 1980s; but since (Other than the chassis!) it's off-the-shelf parts largely, they might not have been able to keep getting parts made for postal vehicles, but the companies will gleefully stock repair parts for a Chevy Cavalier. It's at that point now, there's enough EVs on the market that (unlike even a few years ago) I expect now they could either buy some model, or have it custom built but use some models' drivetrain, and keep being able to get parts for it as needed.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Change in stance

      for a nutjob Trump appointee, he was actually relatively competent

      Well I guess in terms of trying to hamstring mail delivery he was relatively competent. He was ordering mail sorting centers to scrap working (and in some cases brand new) sorting equipment, the only reason anyone has been able to come up with was to deliberately make the mail slower.

      Since these decisions were made and implemented (without any discussion with anyone else further down the chain) in the runup to the 2020 election, when Trump was railing against mail in voting and training his voters to only vote in person I have to wonder if the DOJ will be looking into how that decision was made and if he was ordered by Trump himself to "sabotage the postal system". If he had not been stopped from fully implementing all that he was trying to when it became publicly known, who knows how much damage he could have done by that November?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Change in stance..we have an EV crank here.

      OK. So anyone who is not a Democrat is automatically a "nutcase". Glad we got that out of the way. Probably a Daily Kos reader.

      So sticking an hybrid drive train on a stop start short journey urban vehicle magically gives it hugely increased efficiency over 8mpg? Really?

      Last time I looked at the numbers almost two thirds the cost of running an urban delivery fleet was everything but the fuel. And at least in California at least 90% of the electricity needed to overnight recharge the vehicles is generated by coal, gas and oil. Very "eco". If you recharge late morning / early afternoon you might get it as low as 60%. On a good day. Otherwise its good old Utah coal that recharges those babies.

      And despite huge subsidies and big increases in punitive taxes on the price of gas 90% plus of all car sales in EV heaven, California, are gas powered. And will remain that way in the future. Kill the subsidies and make EV owner pay the full cost of their very expensive toys and just watch the sales numbers collapse. Like happened in Norway a few years ago. They had to quickly bring back the huge subsidies to keep up the pretense and the sales numbers up. But the Norwegians can afford this level of utter stupidity. Due to the huge amounts of money they make from selling natural gas and oil. And all those big hydro plants. Neither of which you can drill for, or build, in California any more. So its screw the taxpayers so that rich white folk get to drive around in their Unicorn EV's.

      So yeah, EV's are a very bad idea for the USPS. They are a perfect fit for certain very specific commercial vehicle applications. Nothing better. The roles they have filled for generations. All the rest, a very expensive fad. And a huge misallocation of economic resources. The greatest waste since Central Planning. And we all know how well that turned out.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Change in stance..we have an EV crank here.

        "And at least in California at least 90% of the electricity needed to overnight recharge the vehicles is generated by coal, gas and oil."

        Where did you check this? Gas? Yes, Coal, one plant that supplies a small mining town that isn't grid connected (Trona) and zero oil.

        The way the USPS uses delivery vehicles, they are a really good fit. Start and stop city driving is where EV's really shine. An EV can also be electronically limited so they aren't peeling out and the drivers can't act like they're in a race. Regen braking saves a ton of service on a car that stops frequently and not having to deal with petroleum fuels/exhaust is going to return big over time. The flexibility of design of the propulsion system makes configuring the vehicles much easier.

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Change in stance

      "The Postmaster General said the reduction of inefficient transportation and improved distribution operations..."

      That would mean more efficient/timely delivery of mail-in ballots!

  7. hayzoos

    Proper evaluation

    I see so many off-the-cuff statements of supposed benefits of either hydrocarbon fueled or electrically powered vehicles. I also see assumptions of how the USPS vehicles are run. Only the USPS has first hand information on how it's vehicles are run. A proper evaluation can only be made when correct information is available. I have seen USPS vehicles doing frequent start stops as some have said. I have seen them parked in an area with the delivery person walking the house to house deliveries. I have also seen them on the rural routes which still represent more start stops than most other vehicles but less than a suburban route. The fleet is not made up of only the endpoint delivery vehicles. What is the percentage breakdown by vehicle capacity, route type, etc?

    The costs to operate comparison may not even be best represented by MPG or MPG equivalent. One thing for sure, the USPS has unique vehicle usage patterns. The analysis may best be performed by cost per route or mail pieces or stops. The overall cost with acquisition, operation, and maintenance has to be considered.

    Has such a proper evaluation been performed? I do not have information to make such a determination.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Proper evaluation

      "The analysis may best be performed by cost per route or mail pieces or stops. "

      The routes are often determined by distance and stops. It also doesn't matter if the postman delivers an average of one item per stop or many, they still have to drive the same route and make the same stops. I'm pretty sure they have good data on the range of weight and volume a route has to determine vehicle size and if the route needs to be split or consolidated. The mandate is that the USPS delivers to every address in the US where it's possible to get in a postal vehicle. If you live out in the sticks where a 4wd vehicle is necessary, you have to make arrangements.

      I can see that a purpose built electric postal vehicle could be a big cost savings to the Post Office where it can be used.

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