As city transit services, school bus fleets, and other civic organizations take steps to embrace clean energy technology, the United States Postal Service is poised to follow suit.
USPS has partnered with Oshkosh Defense, a subsidiary of Oshkosh Corp, to build a fleet of “next-generation” USPS delivery vehicles. The new vehicles will be a mix of battery-powered, zero-emission models and low-emission, internal combustion engine models.
Oshkosh’s contract with USPS is a ten-year, multibillion-dollar agreement to produce between 50,000 and 165,000 vehicles. The ratio of battery-powered engines to internal combustion engines is yet to be determined.
President and CEO of Oshkosh Corporation John Pfeifer said in a statement: “Oshkosh Corporation’s advanced engineering capabilities have been driving the Company for more than a century. That innovation has included a commitment to engineering and delivering a wide range of electric vehicles featuring new sustainable technologies. Now the Company’s innovative NGDV [next-generation delivery vehicles] will bring these sustainable technologies into more American neighborhoods.”
Oshkosh also announced plans to open a facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to manufacture the NGDV. The new facility is a boon for Spartanburg and is expected to bring thousands of new jobs to the area.
Rather than construct a new building, Oshkosh is repurposing an existing warehouse to suit its large-scale manufacturing needs. The company says it will hire 1,000 employees for the new Spartanburg site and predicts on-site supply chain partners will also need to expand their teams. Production of the NGDV is scheduled to begin in 2023.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster applauded Oshkosh’s decision to base its manufacturing in Spartanburg. “It speaks volumes of our business environment when a company of this caliber invests $155 million and creates more than 1,000 jobs in our state,” he said. “Congratulations to this great company, and we look forward to all the things they will do.”
As one of the largest U.S. automakers, Ford Motor Co will provide various parts for both the electric and internal combustion vehicles such as engines and transmissions. The new NGDV models will also feature “improved ergonomics, and some of the most advanced vehicle technology” such as 360-degree cameras and a collision-avoidance system with automatic braking. The current vehicles are almost 30 years old, and many do not have air conditioning or other modern features.
“Our fleet modernization also reflects the Postal Service’s commitment to a more environmentally sustainable mix of vehicles,” said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. “Because we operate one of the largest civilian government fleets in the world, we are committed to pursuing near-term and long-term opportunities to reduce our impact on the environment.”
DeJoy says at least 10% of the new fleet will be electric, and added that with government funding a majority of the fleet could be electric within 10 years. Electric vehicles are typically cheaper and easier to maintain since they require less maintenance than traditional engines. According to a 2020 report, USPS is spending over 700 million in maintenance costs for 141,057 delivery vehicles. President Biden has called for government assistance to speed the USPS’s adoption of electric vehicles – a move that could help the environment as well as save millions in maintenance costs.