On Tuesday, the long-running saga of the United States Postal Service’s delivery fleet took another turn when Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced that the service is increasing the number of electric vehicles it plans to purchase. The new plan calls for a minimum of 60,000 Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDV) by 2028, 45,000 of which will be battery EVs. The USPS will also buy an additional 21,000 commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) EVs—perhaps EVs like the Ford e-Transit or the BrightDrop Zevo 600—for deliveries by 2028. And from 2026, all vehicles bought by the USPS will be BEVs.
“Every neighborhood, every household in America deserves to have electric USPS trucks delivering clean air with their mail, and today’s announcement takes us almost all the way there. The Postal Service’s shift to only purchasing electric mail trucks within five years is the marker of a sea change in the federal fleet as the country looks to an electric future. Ultimately, this shift will buffer us from volatile gas prices, spur the growth of clean energy jobs, and have us all breathing easier,” said Adrian Martinez, senior attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign.
The Postal Service’s plans to replace its fleet of aging, inefficient, and increasingly dangerous Grumman LLVs crystalized in February 2021, when it announced that it had selected Oshkosh Defense’s NGDV as its next mail delivery van. At the time, the USPS said it planned to buy between 50,000-165,000 NGDVs but that only 10 percent of the order would be BEVs.
To add insult to injury, those fossil fuel-powered NGDVs would be barely any more efficient than the LLVs they were to replace—8.6 mpg (27.4 L/100 km) versus 8.2 mpg (28.7 L/100 km), according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Despite heavy criticism from the EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Postmaster General DeJoy stuck with the decision, citing the Postal Service’s inability to afford a fleet with a higher percentage of BEVs. The USPS also rejected the EPA’s estimate and claimed the NGDVs would achieve 14.7 mpg (16 L/100 km) and would be able to deliver more mail with fewer trips than the current LLVs can achieve.
In July, the USPS changed its mind and announced that it would limit the NGDV purchase to 50,000 vehicles, at least half of which would be the BEV variant, an increase from the 20 percent it promised earlier this year. Additionally, the Postal Service said it planned to purchase 20,000 COTS EVs, “including as many BEVs as are commercially available and consistent with our delivery profile,” and another 14,500 right-hand-drive internal combustion engine-powered delivery vehicles.
But US President Joe Biden ordered the federal government to electrify its fleet of 600,000 vehicles, and now it looks like the USPS is getting with that program, particularly as the Inflation Reduction Act appropriates $3 billion that the postal service can use as part of what is expected to be a $9.6 billion investment.
“The $3 billion provided by Congress has significantly reduced the risk associated with accelerating the implementation of a nationwide infrastructure necessary to electrify our delivery fleet. While most of the electric vehicle funding will continue to come from Postal Service revenues, we are grateful for the confidence that Congress and the Administration have placed in us to build and acquire what has the potential to become the largest electric vehicle fleet in the nation,” DeJoy said.
The postmaster general added that the Postal Service is undergoing a network modernization program to make its delivery routes more efficient. “A key focus of our modernization effort is to reduce inefficient transportation and improve distribution operations, resulting in far less air cargo and far fewer truck trips,” DeJoy said.
“Finally, we’re seeing the common-sense decision to move the government’s largest fleet of vehicles to all-electric, a massive win for climate and public health. Instead of receiving pollution with their daily mail packages, communities across the US will get the relief of cleaner air. The way we get to a 100 percent electric fleet matters—these vehicles must be union-built and made with materials from a clean supply chain,” said Katherine García, director of the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign.
The USPS expects the first NGDVs to begin delivering mail in late 2023.