Ever since Oshkosh received a $ 6 billion contract from the United States Postal Service to develop a new postman, the contract has caused controversy. Oshkosh’s plan includes primarily gas-powered vehicles, and it won over another plan for all-electric vehicles. The White House is now urging the postmaster general to fulfill his responsibilities and speed up the modernization of the delivery car fleet.
The history of the USPS NGDV
The current mail fleet is aging and long overdue for an upgrade. The most common mail vehicle today is the Grumman LLV (Long Life Vehicle). With production from 1[ads1]987 to 1994, it has certainly lived up to its name. But since LLV’s heater is exposed to fire and increasing maintenance costs, an environmentally friendly replacement is necessary.
The USPS began its search for this replacement NGDV (Next Generation Delivery Vehicle) back in 2015. A case study showed that the postal service’s history of electric vehicles dates back to 1899 when the electric car competed with horses, not gas cars. Still, somewhat inexplicably, Oshkosh won the contract in February 2021, not for a fleet of electric cars, but for a fleet consisting mainly of petrol cars.
Congress did not seem very pleased with this idea:
In response to this announcement, California Rep. Jared Huffman says he will introduce legislation to ensure that the USPS contract consists of at least 75% electric or zero-emission vehicles.
Another representative, Mary Kaptur from Ohio, says she will introduce a bill that aims to pause the contract while answering questions about corruption and compliance with Biden’s executive order. She, Ryan and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown all sent a letter to Biden asking to stop the Oshkosh contract.
Kaptur refers to Biden’s plan for full electrification of the federal vehicle fleet.
The White House is addressing Postmaster General Dejoy
It now appears that the Biden administration is pressuring the USPS to electrify the fleet more completely. In a letter sent Feb. 2 to Postmaster General Dejoy of Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Environmental Quality Council, the White House urges the postal service to “fulfill its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) responsibilities, improve its competitiveness, tackle the climate crisis,” and address environmental injustice by accelerating the modernization and electrification of the delivery fleet through the acquisition of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV). “
The letter goes on to call out the Environmental Protection Agency’s “serious concerns” with the environmental review carried out in the process of procuring the NGDVs. Some of the concerns raised can be addressed, such as using up-to-date information on electric vehicles to correct the “deficiencies in the environmental impact statement.”
The letter also addresses concerns that cannot be easily remedied, such as the $ 480 million commitment for the design and construction of a factory before the start of an environmental review of the postal service procurement decision.
NG Through NGDV, the USPS has the potential to achieve 70 percent electrification of the delivery car fleet by the end of this decade… at a time when our international competitors are moving rapidly to electrify their transportation systems, and leading US companies, including large delivery companies, are rapidly promoting US competitiveness by to electrify their fleets and show how the United States is leading by example.
This transition to a modern, clean and efficient USPS car fleet is a top priority for the Biden administration. To address the climate crisis, President Biden has called on us to seize the once-in-a-generation financial opportunity to create and maintain jobs, including high-paying union jobs; support a fair transition to a more sustainable economy for American workers; strengthen American society; protect public health; and promote environmental justice.
… We will continue to do everything we can to support USPS fleet electrification work, including budgetary and technical assistance to address the issues I have discussed.
EPA concerns about NGDV plan
Also on February 2, a similar letter was sent by Environmental Protection Agency Associate Administrator Vicki Arroyo to the USPS Senior Director of Environmental Affairs and Corporate Sustainability describing the specific problems the EPA had with the USPS NGDV acquisitions.
The EPA review found that “EPA’s concerns with the draft EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] was not adequately addressed and the final EIS remains seriously deficient. ” Arroyo went on to list several “key shortcomings.”
Important shortcomings include the fact that, contrary to NEPA’s requirements, a contract for this proposal was awarded before the NEPA process, critical features of the contract are not disclosed in the EIS, important data and financial assumptions are missing in the EIS, and the EIS failed to assess one easy possible alternative to the proposed action. More specifically, the final EIS does not disclose important information underlying the key analysis of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), underestimates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, fails to assess more environmentally viable alternatives, and assesses insufficient impacts on communities with environmental justice concerns.
This is not a short list of concerns, and they “make the final EIS inconsistent with the requirements of NEPA and its implementing regulations.” As a result, the environmental impact statement will have to be revised and reopened for public comment.
The letter is clear and hard, calling out the USPS for its erroneous process, noting that “the Post Office chose not to consider in detail even a single possible alternative to its proposal that would be more environmentally friendly, and only considers alternatives the Post Office itself considered to be impossible (eg 100 percent BEVs given longer rural routes).
The letter goes into detail about the proposed gas fleet, and notes that the proposed ICE NGDVs deliver a mediocre improvement of 0.4 mpg compared to the existing fleet developed over 30 years ago, which means that the updated vehicles will get 8 , 6 miles per gallon …
An updated fleet of 90 percent ICE vehicles and 10 percent BEVs will reduce “relevant emissions by 21.7 percent after ten years,” but the letter notes that these new vehicles under the plan would cause climate damage that “would exceed $ 900 million. “
The EPA concludes the letter by recommending, “The Post Office first prioritizes purchasing BEVs, in accordance with any existing contractual obligations,” and requesting a meeting.
Honestly, each of these letters is worth reading – in its entirety. It is difficult to make an apology for the number of deficiencies in the Postmaster’s plan. The post office analysis assumed a static price for electric battery vehicles, which simply does not correspond to the real world, where the cost of batteries, and in turn electric battery vehicles, decreases.
It does not take into account the expected reduction in the cost of batteries, and therefore BEVs, during the 10-year acquisition.
The EPA suggests that the postal service look at estimates prepared by the National Academy of Sciences as a starting point for potential battery price fall forecasts, which recently concluded that “the most important cost driver for electric cars is the battery, which for high-volume battery production is expected to be reduced to $ 90- $ 115 / kWh by 2025. and $ 65- $ 80 / kWh by 2030 at the package level. ”6
The USPS also underestimated emissions from ICE vehicles while overestimating emissions from electric vehicles.
Even the weight of the ICE vehicles, one pound above the weight limit for emissions standards for light vehicles, means that they are subject to less severe emissions.
The fact that the new BEV NGDVs have 734 pounds lower payload capacity than the ICE NGDVs (2207 pounds vs. 2941 pounds), but still meet the relevant operating requirements, suggests that the ICE vehicles are specified to be significantly larger than they need to be, which allows them to have much higher emissions given that they are subject to less stringent standards.
With the very short distance to most postal routes (95% is less than 70 miles), even something like the Ford E-transit which Electrical Seth Weintraub checked out recently, with his estimated range of 108-126 miles and a price tag of between $ 40,000, can go a long way. The USPS estimates that the BEV versions of NGDV will cost $ 30,000 more than their ICE counterparts are clearly unreasonable, and the USPS should consider lower electric cars to directly meet these needs. Ford had submitted its bid to offer NGDVs, but was not selected (although it supplies the engines to Oshkosh’s fleet, as the military contractor in particular has no experience in the small consumer vehicle market).
The vehicles and technology exist for the postal service to become electric, and it must. Sure, there are a few routes where a gas vehicle can offer some benefits, but the majority of the fleet must run electrically, not a mediocre ten percent.
Post offices have regular, short routes and places to store delivery trucks overnight. This is the perfect use case for electric vehicles. The usual excuses that no-sayers of electric cars like to throw around about “range is not enough”, “where should I charge” and “they are more expensive” are simply not factors here. The distance traveled each day is well known and consistent, and the long-term costs for the BEVs, in maintenance and environmental impact, must be considered.
It’s hard not to put all this blame on Dejoy. He is a Trump administration with several conflicts of interest (investing in UPS, Amazon and a USPS subcontractor) and no experience as a mail carrier. He drew a lot of criticism during the election in 2020 for making moves that would slow down the delivery of mail in the name of cost-cuters. The postmaster can not be removed by the president, only the board members, but the best option for the future of the USPS is to be removed and replaced with someone who will actually care about the environment and the future of the postal service.
Letter to the USPS from the White House
Letter to the USPS from the EPA
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