Now Is the Time to Modernize the USPS Vehicle Fleet
Replacing an Aging Fleet
Electric Vehicles (EV) are coming, fast. As vehicle manufacturers invest tens of billions of dollars into electrification, including new models, factories, and batteries, there is great anticipation that the U.S. postal fleet will move in the same direction. President Biden has committed to replacing the entire government fleet (roughly 650,000 vehicles) with EVs. Post-office vehicles account for 225,000 of the total government fleet and the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been working on a plan to replace between 50,000 to 165,000 of them over the next 10 years.
When most of us think of EVs, we think of consumer vehicles—replacing your car, truck, or SUV with an EV. Consumer adoption is extremely important, however, the inclusion of other verticals such as transit and school buses, business fleets, and the government fleet will also contribute to a rapid and increased reduction in tailpipe emissions, thereby decreasing carbon footprints and environmental impacts.
While there are several considerations, the benefits of fleet conversion far outweigh the costs and the government should aim to ramp up the electrification of its fleet—starting with the entire postal service fleet. A new bill circulating in Congress would provide funding to increase the proposed USPS conversion of only 10% of its fleet to 75%. We knew the government could do better than 10% and its leadership in the electrification of vehicles is critical to our success.
While the purchase price of an EV is still higher than that of an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, the total cost of ownership, or TCO, is far lower due to reduced maintenance and fueling costs. Price parity between EVs and ICE vehicles will happen very soon. This is even more significant when multiplied by an entire fleet, like school buses, or postal service vehicles.
Interestingly, this is not the first time the USPS has implemented EVs. The first was in 1899 with the Winton electric automobile. Then, in 1901, the first contract purchase was made when five EVs built by the Republic Motor Vehicle Company of New York were added to the fleet. There were even 350 electric Jeeps in the 1970s and have been other small tests/pilot programs since then.
Barriers to Adoption
The primary barrier to greater EV adoption has been battery technology. But this is why the postal fleet is one of the most primely positioned for conversion. With an average delivery route of about 20 miles, today's battery technology can easily accommodate the demands. 96% of USPS delivery vehicles drive under 40 miles per day. It is also worth noting that the average speed is approximately 13 mph on postal routes and consists of about 500 stops.
Electrification of government fleets also has the unique advantage of zero wait time in terms of adoption, while consumers will continue to switch to EVs over time. Although it will take time, electrifying the government fleet can occur much more quickly.
Even with these advantages, a popular question remains: How will we recharge a USPS EV fleet? This will indeed be a significant undertaking, but simple solutions exist. Most EVs are plugged in where and when they spend the most time not being utilized. In the case of the postal service fleet, it would be overnight, where vehicles currently park.
One solution is Level 2 charging, which would essentially require the same power as a home clothes dryer or range and would be more than sufficient for charging overnight. Level 2 charging allows the vehicle to add about 25 miles of range per hour. A less powerful solution could also work, which is called Level 1 charging. Level 1 charging adds about 4 or 5 miles of range per hour but would still provide plenty of time to recharge most of the fleet overnight. In this case, the ideal solution is smart, Level 2 charging.
Smart Level 2 charging is effective because many existing technologies allow the load from charging sessions to be shared dynamically at each property and between all vehicles charging. This reduces the number of infrastructure upgrades at each site. Smart charging stations also connect to the cloud to allow data reporting, billing, time of use rates, and station access control. For example, the stations could be restricted to USPS fleet vehicles, made available to the general public, or both depending on the day or time of day.
Importantly, numerous companies do this work every day and stand ready to help; from charging station manufacturers, electrical contractors, utility providers, and consultants, the electrification of the postal service fleet can be done efficiently and with professionalism.
This is how we “Build Back Better”.
MD Energy Advisors is a trusted partner providing solutions that meet the energy management, efficiency and renewable goals for commercial clients, utility, and government. Learn more at www.mdenergyadvisors.com or call us at 410.779.9644.