The United States Postal Service is being dragged kicking and screaming into an electric vehicle future. It only took a mass public outcry, lawsuits form 16 different states, and an impassioned plea from the president himself to get them there.
Though the USPS previously decided on a 90%/10% split of gas and electric powered vehicles to power its new fleet, the agency turned on a dime this week, announcing it would spend nearly $10 billion to acquire 66,000 electric EV trucks by 2028. That’s more than half of the total 106,000 vehicles it planned to acquire during that time.
While it’s not the 100% EV transformation some were hoping for, it’s still way more than the pathetic 10% eye-roll the USPS was trying to get away with. The agency also said new vehicle purchases after 2026 would be “100% electric,” though that commitment could ultimately depend on who’s sitting in the oval office come 2024.
In the near term, the USPS said it plans to acquire a minimum of 60,000 new “next generation delivery vehicles,” (NGDV) 75% of which will be battery powered electric. The agency will supplement those NGDVs by purchasing an additional 21,000 battery-powered electric commercial vehicles.
The Postal service’s overall $9.6 billion investment will include $3 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act passed earlier this year to help build the vehicles and install modern charging infrastructure at USPS facilities. In a statement, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who previously said the agency couldn’t afford heavy-handed EV investments, credited those additional congressional funds for the change.
“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,” DeJoy said. “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.”
That realignment could make a meaningful environmental difference. An environmental impact statement conducted by the USPS last year estimated that moving over to an all electric fleet could prevent an estimated 537,415 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That’s roughly equivalent to almost 9 million trees growing for 10 years. Transitioning to an all-electric fleet would also prevent almost 1 million tons of harmful nitrogen oxides from entering the air annually, and 11,000 tons of carbon monoxide, according to the same statement.
The USPS, which delivers packages to approximately 163 million addresses six days per week accounts for the most vehicles in the federal governments’ fleet. Electrifying these mail trucks would get the U.S. one step closer to achieving the Biden Administration’s goal of having all federal agencies purchase 100% zero-emission vehicles for the federal fleet by 2035.
“The U.S. Postal Service plan sets the pace for other leading public and private sector fleets,” Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory said in a statement. “It is clear that the future of transportation is electric—and that future is here.”
Senior Biden advisor John Podesta, who worked with the USPS to hit the new EV targets, said the plan, “places USPS at the forefront of the clean transportation revolution.”
With the announcement the postal service will try to gloss over the less than enthusiastic reception of its new, gas-powered design released last year, which the EPA said would only achieve a lousy 8.6 mpg. That’s a measly .4 mpg improvement from the postal service’s old clunkers. It also looks like a sick mutant bug, but not everyone holds that opinion.
Though the USPS’ pivot towards more EVs will come as a welcome change for most environmentalists, it’s worth keeping in mind the so-called economic constraints that led the agency here in the first place. The cost to transition the USPS’s entire fleet would reportedly come out to around $3.3 billion more than the agency’s original 90%/10% split. That might sounds like a lot until you consider Congress just last week gave final approval for a $858 billion military policy.