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Electric Vehicles Could Service 99 Percent of Mail Routes, USPS Inspector Finds

The report bolsters the argument against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s plan to buy a fleet that’s 90 percent gas run.

U.S. Postal Service trucks are seen parked on August 20, 2020, in New York City.

Electrifying the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) fleet of vehicles would be both feasible and carry many benefits for the agency and the climate, a new report finds, bolstering the case against adopting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s plan to buy an all-new gas-guzzling fleet.

According to the report, prepared by the USPS Office of Inspector General, nearly all of the agency’s routes could be serviced by electric mail trucks. Only 2,600 out of 177,000 routes wouldn’t be serviceable with electric vehicles – the other nearly 99 percent of routes fit within the 70 miles that the USPS has found that the electric trucks could travel on one charge.

The Inspector General concluded that electric vehicles would be able to meet nearly all of the Postal Service’s needs while helping the agency save money over time and meet its sustainability goals of a 25 percent carbon dioxide emissions reduction by 2030.

“We identified several clear benefits of adopting electric vehicles into the postal delivery fleet, including improved sustainability and environmental impacts,” the Office of the Inspector General wrote. “The Postal Service is poised to refresh its delivery fleet at a moment when electric vehicle technology is rapidly advancing. Battery ranges are improving, and battery costs are declining.”

The report comes as the Postal Service is poised to defy President Joe Biden’s pleas for the agency to go all-electric. Under the direction of DeJoy, the Postal Service finalized a plan last month to purchase up to 165,000 gas vehicles, frustrating climate advocates who say that USPS trucks are perfect candidates for electrification.

Indeed, an experimental fleet of six electric vehicles adopted by the USPS in 2017 showed numerous benefits. The agency found last year that, since 2017, those six vehicles have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 52,770 pounds. If those findings are extrapolated to an all-electric fleet, emissions reductions would triple compared to the current plan to purchase a 90 percent gas-powered fleet, the report found.

The tiny electric fleet also saved the agency $10,000 in fuel costs, since electricity is cheaper and more reliable per equivalent gallon of gas. While gas has fluctuated between roughly $2 a gallon and over $4 a gallon during the past decade, the cost of electricity per equivalent gallon of gas has hovered around $1.25, according to the report.

Buying an all-electric fleet could save the postal agency money in the long run. Electric vehicles are more reliable than gas trucks and require less maintenance to operate. Meanwhile, private companies like UPS and Amazon are buying electric vehicles in part to try to reduce emissions.

The chief caveat is that the upfront costs of buying electric vehicles would be significantly higher than the current plan to replace the agency’s 217,000 older vehicles with new gas-run trucks, according to the report. Not only would the trucks be more expensive, they would also require the installation of chargers for the vehicles when they are not in operation.

However, if Congress is willing to provide a subsidy of about $7 billion, the agency would be able to break even on the costs in about 10 years, the report finds. Congress is considering a bill that would provide such a subsidy, but the bill is moot if the agency doesn’t decide to go all-electric.

Democrats in Congress have been trying to stop DeJoy’s plan. A group of House Democrats recently called for an investigation into the contract to buy the vehicles, questioning whether or not the agency properly conducted an environmental review of the plan. Meanwhile, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia) introduced a bill earlier this month that would stop the USPS from purchasing a new fleet unless at least 75 percent of the replacement vehicles were electric.

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