No more electric vehicles, no more excuses for the US Postal Service

Just a few months ago, the USPS claimed that all of its 165,000 new delivery trucks would run on gasoline, causing an uproar among electric vehicle fans. Now the tables have turned, thanks in part to a $3 billion reserve for a shopping spree in the new climate bill — if the legislation manages to pass Congress, of course.

Move goal posts on electric vehicles

To be clear, a delivery truck transformation of one type or another is long overdue for the Postal Service. The current fleet was purchased a very long time ago on the theory that government-owned delivery vehicles should last a very long time.

As a result, tens of thousands of Postal Service drivers struggle with noisy, polluting, uncomfortable, outdated – and seemingly dangerous – delivery vehicles, in addition to battling snow, rain, heat and darkness. of the night during their daily rounds. . The relationship lasted so long that a gift of money would be in order, if not pearls.

Based on the idea that quick change is imperative before anyone gets hurt, last year Postmaster General Louis DeJoy awarded a $6 billion contract for new “delivery vehicles next generation” to renowned defense contractor Oshkosh Defence. The contract stipulated that only 10% of new vehicles would be electric vehicles.

Among other issues, critics have accused Oshkosh of lacking experience with electric vehicles, though that’s not accurate. The company has experience in zero-emission mobility, including fire trucks and other purpose-built vehicles. Oshkosh also designed the new delivery vehicle to accommodate electric drive should the Postal Service choose to go that direction, either as new construction or under renovation.

From 10% electric vehicles to at least 50%

It seems that all those loads of critics have paid off. The backlash against the contract has been loud, strong and sustained, including a lawsuit filed by 16 state attorneys general over issues with the environmental impact analysis submitted by the Postal Service.

Earlier this year, USPS gave in a bit and said its initial $2.98 billion order for 50,000 delivery trucks would include 20% electric vehicles.

“[The] Postal Service is delivering on its promise to accelerate its electric vehicle strategy by increasing the quantity of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) as our financial position improves and we refine our network and vehicle operations strategy,” they said.

It was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t quell the uproar. Since last week, the figure has magically increased to at least 50% electric vehicles.

“The Postal Service is announcing a change in the scope of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for its Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDV) to further reflect network enhancements, route optimizations and financial enhancements that will support a shortened delivery vehicle supply strategy interval,” they explained.

They also hinted that the 50% figure could increase in the short term.

“The Postal Service is committed to evaluating vehicle mix and purchase capability at shorter intervals as technology evolves and the organization’s financial and operational condition improves,” they said. .

In fact, the Postal Service is now in such a rush to electrify its fleet that it has changed the initial supply to include 34,500 off-the-shelf vehicles, in addition to purpose-built models from Oshkosh.

How about 100% electric vehicles for USPS?

It was last week. On Wednesday night this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced a surprise deal on the new climate bill. Among the provisions is a $3 billion exception for the Postal Service to buy more electric vehicles.

The announcement came as a real shock as Manchin was the only Democratic senator to refuse to support the bill, which was introduced last fall under the title Build Back Better.

In fact, just last week, Manchin almost declared Build Back Better to be dead. He wasn’t kidding either. He clearly meant that the title “Build Back Better” was dead, not the bill itself.

The agreed-upon climate bill is now called the “Cut Inflation Act of 2022,” which sounds nice bipartisan, though good luck getting some Republican senators to join us. Democrats will have to do all the heavy lifting and rally their 50 senators to pass the bill, with Vice President Kamala Harris voting to reach a 51-50 conclusion.

Here comes the EV shopping spree

The new climate bill earmarks more than $9 billion for federal agencies to buy “clean technologies made in the United States to create a stable market for clean products.” It can mean just about anything, but the bill specifies $3 billion for new zero-emission vehicles for the Postal Service.

The big question is how quickly the Postal Service can accelerate its timeline to purchase more electric vehicles. Walmart, Amazon and other private sector companies are already gobbling up electric vans and other delivery vehicles at a rapid pace, not to mention UPS and FedEx. The postal service will have to be part of the pack in one way or another.

Apparently, the craftsmen of the new climate bill have already thought of this. Among the provisions are production tax credits aimed at increasing the supply of batteries and critical materials for electric vehicles as well as other clean technologies. The tax credit should generate $30 billion in new investment. Critical materials also appear in a $500 million pie that falls under the Defense Production Act.

Additionally, the bill provides $10 billion in investment tax credits “to build clean technology manufacturing facilities, such as facilities that manufacture electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels.”

An additional $2 billion in grants are more specifically focused on zero-emission mobility. The grants will go to “retooling existing auto factories to manufacture clean vehicles, ensuring auto manufacturing jobs stay in the communities that depend on them.”

This grant program is particularly attractive because it could help Rust Belt states retain unionized manufacturing jobs that would otherwise go to southern “right to work” states.

The reference to “clean vehicles” is also interesting. We assume compressed natural gas is out of the game, but biofuels could sneak in somehow. The exclusion could also leave some room for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, whether autonomous or in hybrid versions combining batteries and fuel cells.

If you have any thoughts on this, drop us a note in the comment thread.

follow me on twitter @TinaMCasey.

Image: More electric vehicles available for the US Postal Service (courtesy of Oshkosh Defense).

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