Weekly Brief: US Postal Service ICE Fleet Told ‘Return to Sender’

The US Postal Service is headed to court over its handling of electric vehicles.

A month ago the service announced that it would purchase 50,000 new delivery vans from the Oshkosh Corporation to update its ramshackle fleet of mail vans that date back to the Cold War era. It made a big deal of highlighting the fact that it was going electric, doubling its commitment to electric delivery vans from 5,000 to 10,000. President Biden has pledged to take 100% of the federal fleet electric. This, the US Postal Service contended, was a positive first step.

Yet, what about the other 40,000 delivery vans about to go into manufacturing and the other 88,000 delivery vans beyond that which the USPS plans to purchase over the coming decade? In the past several weeks, news has leaked that the remainder of the new fleet will be gas-powered vans that deliver a shockingly bad 8.6mpg (US), an improvement of less than 0.5mpg over the gas guzzlers from 30 years ago that currently pollute our streets. Environmentalists groaned. President Biden got mad. The postmaster general, Trump nominated Louis DeJoy, said his agency was moving forward with the order anyway.

Last week the saga got even juicier when 16 states including California, New York, Pennsylvania, and my home state the small but mighty Vermont, sued the postal service in federal court, alleging that the USPS grossly underestimated the negative environmental impact of its new fleet and used erroneous calculations to justify an $11.3Bn contract with a military defense company. The environmental group Earthjustice, The Natural Resources Defense Council, the City of New York and the District of Columbia joined in the suit.

The USPS contends that it met the letter of the law and its civil and fiscal responsibility during the six-year process to select its next generation fleet of “fuel-efficient low-emission internal combustion engine vehicles”. On the one hand, this is obviously nonsense, given the abominable performance specs of the new mail rigs. On the other hand, you have to feel for the USPS, not just because the mail carrier lost almost $5Bn last year (and that was a good year) but also because, no matter how much environmentalists would like to believe otherwise, our local and national charging infrastructure is woefully insufficient and makes going fully electric for any corporation, government agency or member of the general public challenging right now.

I have experienced these challenges firsthand. My EV, which purports to deliver 220 miles per charge and does so in the summer, drops down to a 120-mile range in the dead of Vermont winter. On one especially bitter day, I pulled out of the garage with 120 miles range, got a mile down the road and had 75 miles left on my charge. Imagine the sort of havoc that could wreak in the middle of a mail route. I use my EV locally. Most mail vans are local carriers but the challenges persist, nonetheless. Challenges that the federal government, as well as states and carmakers, need to address if the EV revolution is going to come to fruition.

Carmakers seem to be getting the message. Last week Ford announced that the newest update to the Apple iPhone, iOS 15.4, includes a new Apple Maps EV Routing feature. Now when Mustang Mach-E owners turn on their cars and enter a destination into Apple Maps via Carplay, the app automatically creates a route to a desired destination that passes an EV charging station along the way.

Similarly, the Volkswagen Group announced last week that it is expanding its European charging network and making it easier for customers to charge up along the way. If you drive a VW, Cupra/Seat or Škoda, you can now pay a standard tariff for public charging that remains the same price no matter where you go within the charging network. Paul Myles has the full details.


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