Postal service

US Postal Service forges ahead with vehicle upgrades that still favor gasoline

The US Postal Service has been given permission to purchase its next-generation mail vehicles – but the plan is at odds with the broader push from a climate-conscious Biden administration, as only 10% of the fleet update will include electric vehicles.

The USPS fleet grows to more than 230,000 vehicles, including 190,000 for local deliveries that need to be replaced.

The Postal Service generates its own revenue and does not receive direct taxpayer money for its operations, although weak finances strained by pension obligations have been subject to bailout considerations. The decline in franked mailings in today’s digital world has prompted the service to woo package deliveries to compete with FedEx FDX,
-1.35%
and UPSUPS,
-2.15%,
including a major agreement with Amazon.com AMZN,
-3.58%
before the retailer steps up deliveries with its own fleet. And Amazon’s fleet is also converting to green power with an investment in Rivian RIVN,
-7.79%.

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The USPS’ decision to proceed with that plan, published in the Federal Register, allows the service to place the first order, which will include at least 5,000 electric vehicles, as well as an undetermined number of gas-powered RB00s,
+3.02%
vehicles, Postal Service spokesman Kim Frum told The Associated Press. The order is placed with Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense OSK,
-2.70%.

However, future USPS electric vehicle projects may come with federal funding. It would cost an additional $3.3 billion to convert the entire Postal Service fleet to electric vehicles. Some funding is included in Biden’s Build Back Better plan, but that bill remains stalled in Congress.

The Biden administration had previously announced the conversion of federal vehicles to electric vehicles, alongside a new way for the government to purchase electricity. And the president has urged all agencies to review energy efficiency and other measures as he tries to steer the country toward a 50% reduction in Earth-warming carbon emissions by 2030. Biden, who ran on climate change efforts, had appointed several climate-specific advisers. to an administration that wants to play a powerful role in converting the world to renewable energy, but that often lags behind other major economies on this front.

The USPS had been reminded of what the president hoped to accomplish, an administration official said during a recent call about another climate initiative, but the service was able to operate independently on that vehicle order.

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“As we have reiterated throughout this process, our commitment to an electric fleet remains ambitious given the pressing vehicle and safety needs of our aging fleet as well as our fragile financial situation,” said the Postmaster General and USPS Director General Louis DeJoy in a statement. . DeJoy, an ally of Trump, also made headlines during the last administration, facing criticism for delays in delivery, removing drop boxes just at election time and insisting on the former president that the service was a “joke”.

“As our financial position improves with the continued implementation of our 10-year plan, Delivering for America, we will continue to pursue the acquisition of new [electric vehicles] as additional funds — from internal sources or from Congress — become available,” DeJoy said. “The men and women of the U.S. Postal Service have waited long enough for safer, cleaner vehicles to fulfill our Universal Service Obligation of delivering to 161 million addresses in all climates and topographies six days a week.”

Environmental groups were not entirely convinced.

“The Biden administration, Congress, environmental and public health groups, and air regulators have made it clear that electrifying the Postal Service must be a top climate and public health priority. Refusing to hold a public hearing on such a flawed and controversial plan speaks volumes about the bad intentions of Postmaster Louis DeJoy,” charged Katherine García, director of the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All program.

“There should be no reason for this plan to move forward into 2022,” she said.

Patricio Portillo of the Natural Resources Defense Council added, “Neither rain, nor sleet, nor good financial sense will stop US Postal Service executives from trying to buy dirty, polluting delivery trucks.”

The Postal Service moved forward despite a request from the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (EQC) for another review looking at costs to long term.

Perhaps the wider adoption of electric vehicles reflects the slow approach to USPS conversion.

Market tracker LMC Automotive expects electric vehicles to account for 34.2% of new vehicle sales in the United States by 2030, all-electric at 30.1% and gasoline plug-in hybrids /electric at 4.1%. Sales of electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, accounted for only about 4% of total U.S. vehicle sales in 2021. Still, that marked a doubling in growth from the previous year.

The USPS said the new vehicles are more efficient than the old ones and include climate control, airbags, backup cameras and collision avoidance.

The vehicles are also higher, to make it easier for postmen to pick up parcels. Parcels – instead of letters and bills – made up a much larger share of deliveries even before the pandemic, according to government data.

The Associated Press contributed.