The electric vehicle startup Workhorse filed a complaint in federal court on Wednesday challenging the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to award a 10-year, multibillion-dollar vehicle manufacturing deal to a defense contractor earlier this year.
Back in February, the USPS announced that it had selected Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense to produce its next generation of vehicles, which are slated to be rolled out in 2023. You’ll perhaps best remember this announcement for the polarizing design mockups that accompanied it, which featured cartoonishly rounded-out mail vehicles that looked like a fleet of goofy clown cars.
Prior to the announcement of that contract — which will allow Oshkosh 10 years to deliver a mix of internal combustion-powered and battery-electric vehicles — Workhorse had proposed building an all-electric vehicle fleet for USPS, an idea that quickly won the support of many key U.S. lawmakers.
The complaint — which is still sealed, but is likely to be at least partially unsealed by a judge in the coming weeks — has the potential to impact the likelihood of a large government agency switching to an entirely electric fleet, something President Joe Biden has repeatedly signaled his support for.
Although USPS declined to comment on the ongoing litigation, it said that “preproduction design, tooling and facility preparation are proceeding on schedule with the first (next generation delivery vehicles) estimated to appear on carrier routes in 2023.”
Funding has proven to be a major sticking point in the fight to electrify the USPS fleet. Although Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has committed to at least 10% of the USPS fleet being electric vehicles, he wrote in a March letter to lawmakers providing government assistance could help to roll out a majority electric fleet in the next decade. Biden has sought approval for a more urgent plan, calling upon Congress in January to approve an $8 billion funding package to ensure that the USPS’s fleet of approximately 650,000 vehicles is completely electric and zero-emission in the next decade.