Fresh USPS mail trucks revealed: Not all will be electric

Last month, President Biden plotted out the future for the federal vehicle fleet as American-made and all-electric. Yet the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on Tuesday awarded ten-year, multi-billion-dollar contract for next-generation postal vehicles, many of which will have engines and tailpipes.  According to an announcement of the contract Tuesday, the USPS will provide Oshkosh Defense, […]

Last month, President Biden plotted out the future for the federal vehicle fleet as American-made and all-electric.

Yet the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on Tuesday awarded ten-year, multi-billion-dollar contract for next-generation postal vehicles, many of which will have engines and tailpipes. 

According to an announcement of the contract Tuesday, the USPS will provide Oshkosh Defense, of Wisconsin, with $482 million to “finalize the production design” of the next-generation postal vehicle—even though an Oshkosh Defense release refers to the vehicle as developed.

The USPS release explains that initial investment includes the expense of setting up a manufacturing facility for the vehicles, which will be delivered starting in 2023. 

USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle - Oshkosh Defense

USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle – Oshkosh Defense

USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle - Oshkosh Defense

USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle – Oshkosh Defense

USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle - Oshkosh Defense

USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle – Oshkosh Defense

Over the course of 10 years, Oshkosh will provide 50,000 to 165,000 of the vehicles, which will “be equipped with either fuel-efficient internal combustion engines or battery electric powertrains and can be retrofitted to keep pace with advances in electric vehicle technologies.”

Oshkosh Defense currently lists no expertise in battery electric vehicles, which given the Biden administration’s priorities would be a primary prerequisite for the contract. Its ProPulse diesel-electric hybrid system is promoted on its site for heavy military vehicles. We’ve also reported on some of the company’s street-related technology many years ago, when it participated in the DARPA Urban Challenge

The U.S.-based Zero Emission Transportation Association, which includes Rivian, Lordstown, Arrival, and other all-electric vehicle makers as members, called the announcement a misstep. The group’s executive director, Joe Britton, issued the following: “U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is trying to lock our postal vehicle fleet into decades of carbon-intensive transportation. This directly conflicts with the Administration’s stated goals and is certain to see swift pushback from appropriators who have sought to drive USPS vehicle electrification.”

USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle - Oshkosh Defense

USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle – Oshkosh Defense

The selection process has dragged on for six years, and beyond an early spirited round of publicized proposals it’s been a low-key affair. At an earlier stage, the list of contenders included AM General, India’s Mahindra, Indiana-based Utilimaster; Ohio-based Workhorse, teamed with VT Hackney; and Turkey’s Karsan, teamed with Michigan’s Morgan Olson.

It’s been so long in the making that some of the partners and proposals have been lost along the way. Workhorse and VT Hackney broke up in 2019, Utilimaster dropped out in 2017, and Mahindra withdrew its bid last summer. 

USPS LLV

USPS LLV

The current postal fleet includes nearly 229,000 vehicles, and many of its Grumman LLV mail vehicles are about 30 years old—10 years past their original maximum intended lifetime. Those models are loosely based on the Chevy S-10 pickup, and they reek of cost-cutting and bad decision making. There’s no power steering; the exhaust pipe is on the same side of the vehicle as the driver; and over the past couple of years, instances of these trucks catching fire have been on the rise. 

Green Car Reports has reached out to Oshkosh for information about production and technology partners. The company has been working with Ford, and at least one of the prototypes for the project was based on the Transit van platform—which will offer fully electric versions starting with the 2022 model year. Ford deferred media queries to Oshkosh.