Congress is trying to figure out why the USPS isn’t going electric fas

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Oshkosh, the protection contractor that received the USPS contract with its dorkily cute design, says that its automobile may run both on fossil fuels or on electric energy and that the fuel or diesel model may later be retrofitted to electric. However it seems that the firm has by no means constructed an electric prototype; the prototype it submitted was not the automobile proven in renderings however a modified Ford Transit van working on diesel. The USPS contract pays the firm $482 million to finalize the design earlier than paying extra for the precise automobiles. In a securities filing final November, Oshkosh admitted that, as a result of demand for electric automobiles is rising, the firm “could not have the experience or assets to efficiently deal with these pressures on a cheap foundation or in any respect.” Workhorse, an Ohio-based electric automobile producer that did take a look at an electric prototype on mail routes in an earlier stage of the multiyear course of, misplaced its bid. (Oshkosh didn’t reply to a request for an interview, and Workhorse mentioned it couldn’t remark.)

Lawmakers now need to see the particulars of the confidential contract between USPS and Oshkosh. Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the Home Committee on Oversight and Reform, has given USPS a deadline of March 26 to share the Oshkosh contract and different paperwork from the negotiation. They need to perceive why Oshkosh received the bid—and why USPS isn’t pushing aggressively for zero-emissions expertise in the center of the local weather disaster.

For USPS, the tiny EV order “is unnecessary and flies in the face of the Biden administration’s latest order to electrify the federal fleet,” mentioned Ohio consultant Marcy Kaptur (EV competitor Workhorse is headquartered in Ohio). Kaptur and different lawmakers are additionally asking for particulars a couple of suspicious $54.2 million purchase of Oshkosh inventory, by an unknown particular person, that occurred the day earlier than the firm received the contract. “This contract is a multibillion-dollar alternative to reimagine the federal fleet and develop this vital home provide line,” she mentioned. “We are able to’t fumble this chance.”

The common Postal Service truck is now 28 years previous. If the subsequent technology of vehicles stays on roads as lengthy and nonetheless makes use of diesel, the automobiles will nonetheless be polluting American cities by the center of the century, when the world wants to attain net-zero emissions. And postal supply automobiles are notably well-suited for electrification.

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[Source Image: USPS]

“This is a really perfect software for an electric automobile,” says Mark Duvall, director of electrification at the nonprofit Electric Energy Analysis Institute. “The fee benefits of working these automobiles—particularly ones that spend plenty of time idling and have plenty of stop-and-go driving—off of electric energy are appreciable, each for the price of the gasoline and the upkeep.” Present mail vehicles get round 10 miles per gallon and break down so ceaselessly that USPS spends $2 billion a yr on repairs. Electric automobiles can lower your expenses over time each as a result of electrical energy is cheaper than gasoline and since fewer elements imply much less upkeep.

A recent study estimated that heavy-duty electric vehicles, that are costlier to make than mail vehicles, can now save round $200,000 over a 15-year lifetime. And but, in latest testimony, Postmaster Normal Louis DeJoy—the Trump donor identified for making modifications at USPS that slowed supply earlier than the 2020 election—claimed that the whole lifetime price of Oshkosh’s EVs can be costlier than the fossil fuel-powered model, and mentioned that USPS would want billions extra to considerably improve the variety of electric automobiles it chooses to buy. But it surely’s inconceivable to confirm this with out seeing the contract. (He additionally arguably far overstated the price of charging infrastructure, despite the fact that the vehicles may use comparatively low-power chargers as they sit in a single day.)

Oshkosh may not be the proper firm to present the expertise. “I have a tendency to consider that [Oshkosh’s] assertion of electric capabilities is a form of wild exaggeration,” says Joseph Britton, government director of the Zero Emission Transportation Affiliation. “And I feel the cause why you haven’t seen what that [electric] prototype seems like, and its performance and specs and the pricing, is as a result of I don’t consider it exists.” No different EV producers make automobiles designed for a retrofit from an inner combustion engine to electrical energy; it doesn’t actually make sense to use the similar platform. However viable 100%-electric vehicles do exist now.

USPS hasn’t shared the pricing of the new Oshkosh automobiles. The price of batteries and different elements has fallen steeply, and a few electric vehicles are actually at or close to price parity with their nonelectric counterparts. However a customized automobile would price extra, Duvall says. The USPS contract calls for under 50,000 to 165,000 new vehicles over 10 years. “That’s not plenty of quantity,” he says. “You’re not going to get the similar deal on battery cells and modules and drive techniques {that a} Tesla is getting, or Normal Motors or Volkswagen will get.” That’s most likely very true for an organization similar to Oshkosh, which isn’t making different EVs. However it might be shocking if the upfront price was so excessive that the company wouldn’t lower your expenses over time, particularly if the automobiles are in use so long as the present fleet.

It isn’t too late for USPS to change course. One recent bill proposes giving USPS $6 billion for brand spanking new automobiles if 75% of the fleet is zero-emission. Congress “can set the equilibrium,” says Britton. “If the Postal Service is anticipating to come again to Congress and ask for cash, they could need to take into consideration what Congress’s sturdy views on the situation are upfront, realizing that they’re going to situation any further cash on electrification. . . . In case you take a look at the market, you see that it’s rational and even commercially a strategic benefit to go electric.”