The next generation of post office delivery trucks will be greener than previously expected. The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it would order dramatically more electric delivery vans from defense supplier Oshkosh than previously announced in February. The move comes after 16 states, the District of Columbia, and some environmental groups sued the USPS for what they said was an insufficient contract.
In an official announcement July 20, the USPS said its latest decision on fleet expansion would see the postal service purchase 50,000 new trucks, with 50% battery-electric vehicles, in addition to 34,500 already-available commercial vehicles. All together, the latest purchase agreement would see the mail delivery service with a fleet containing 40% battery-electric vehicles. The first NGDVs are still expected to hit the streets sometime late next year.
The latest announcement is a dramatic step up in battery-electric composition than previous plans. In February 2022, when the USPS first arranged to purchase the next wave of vehicles, it said it would buy 16,500 electric vans and 148,500 gas-powered NGDVs from Oshkosh Defense, a 90%-10% split between gas-powered and electric vehicles. In March, the USPS revised that to an order of 50,000 NGDVs, of which 20% would have been electric.
According to the USPS, the agency had planned the original agreement with the ability to tweak its contents as it works on updating its operating routes. The February 2022 contract, according to the July 20 announcement, “was expressly designed to provide the Postal Service the flexibility to acquire significantly more [battery-electric] NGDV should financial and operational circumstances permit.”
However, the USPS’ initial decision attracted criticism from state leadership and environmentalists who had anticipated a higher share of electric vehicles in the USPS’ first major fleet update in a long time. In addition to environmental groups, sixteen states and the District of Columbia sued the USPS to force it to increase the amount of electric trucks in the order or scrap it entirely.
Also at issue for the complainants is the gas-mileage efficiency of the non-electric Oshkosh trucks, which get about 8.6 miles per gallon—less than half a gallon more efficient than its current, 30-year-old trucks, which currently lack air conditioning, air bags and heating. Compounding concerns about the suitability of the contract, critics noted that Oshkosh defense has never made electric vehicles before it received the order from the Post Office, and the House Oversight and Reform Committee opened an investigation into the deal in May.
The USPS also said in the July 20 announcement that the latest changes mean it will extend the public comment period for the new-truck program until August 15, with a public hearing to be held August 8.