USPS to increase size of electric vehicle fleet

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The U.S. Postal Service is increasing the total number of electric vehicles in its next-generation delivery fleet.

Under an adjusted environmental proposal, USPS plans to limit its order of next-generation delivery vehicles (NGDV) to 50,000 and raise the minimum percentage of NGDV battery electric vehicles (BEV) to at least 50%. USPS will also purchase 34,500 commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) vehicles over a two-year period. 

Of the total 84,500 NGDV and COTS vehicles, at least 40% will be battery electric vehicles. The new next-generation delivery vehicles are expected to start servicing postal routes in late 2023.

The U.S. Postal Service Next Generation Delivery Vehicle is displayed during the Consumer Electronics Show January 5, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"Additional purchases of NGDVs under the current contract or other COTS vehicles will be analyzed in future supplements to the EIS prior to such purchases," USPS said in a statement. "The Postal Service anticipates evaluating and procuring vehicles over shorter time periods to be more responsive to its evolving operational strategy, technology improvements, and changing market conditions, including the expected increased availability of BEV options in the future."

A public hearing on USPS' new proposal will be held next month.

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In February 2021, USPS announced a commitment to acquire up to 165,000 NGDV over the course of a decade, with at least 10% of them being BEV. 

However, President Biden and the Environmental Protection Agency criticized the initial plan for only ordering 5,000 electric trucks. At the time, the EPA said the initial plan "underestimates greenhouse gas emissions, fails to consider more environmentally protective feasible alternatives and inadequately considers impacts on communities with environmental justice concerns."

In August 2021, 16 states, four environmental groups and the United Auto Workers Union sued to halt purchases of the next-generation delivery vehicles, accusing USPS of using a flawed and unlawful environmental analysis and signing contracts before even completing a draft environmental review.

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In March, the agency announced a $2.98 billion purchase of 50,000 next-generation delivery vehicles from Oshkosh Defense, with battery electric vehicles accounting for 20% of the order.

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The next generation delivery vehicles will replace the recognizable Grumman Long Life Vehicles, which went into service between 1987 and 1994. The more than 141,000 white box trucks in service lack safety features like airbags, anti-lock brakes or backup cameras.

The next generation delivery vehicles will replace the recognizable Grumman Long Life Vehicles, which went into service between 1987 and 1994. ((Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

In addition to modern safety equipment, the next-generation delivery vehicles are taller, which makes it easier for postal carriers to grab the packages that make up a greater share of volume. They also have improved ergonomics and climate control. 

The vehicles will get 14.7 miles per gallon without air conditioning, compared to 8.4 mpg for the older vehicles, USPS said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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