The Postal Service will electrify its truck fleet by 2026 in a Biden climate win

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The US Postal Service will buy 66,000 vehicles to build one of the largest electric fleets in the country, Biden administration officials will announce Tuesday, turning to one of the most iconic vehicles on American roads — white box mail trucks — to combat climate change.

Postal officials’ plans call for the purchase of 60,000 “next-generation delivery vehicles” from defense contractor Oshkosh, of which 45,000 will be electric, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told The Washington Post. The agency will also purchase 46,000 models from major automakers, of which 21,000 will be electric.

Officials said the Postal Service will spend $9.6 billion on vehicles and associated infrastructure, including $3 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act, President Biden, the Climate, Medicare and Taxes Act in Congress.

By 2026, the agency expects to purchase zero-emission delivery trucks almost exclusively, DeJoy said. It’s a major achievement for the White House’s climate agenda, which relies heavily on reducing greenhouse gases from vehicles.

The postal agency must replace its 30-year-old fleet of trucks, which lack air conditioning, airbags and other standard safety features. They only get 8.2 mpg.

USPS trucks do not have airbags or air conditioning. They get 10 mpg. And they were revolutionaries.

The eight-year journey to buying new cars was arduous and marked by political battles. White House officials threatened to block an earlier car bid, saying carbon delivery trucks posed an ever-present danger to the planet and public health.

Fleet electrification is a central plank of Biden’s plan to combat rising global temperatures. Biden has ordered the federal government to purchase only zero-emission vehicles by 2035. With more than 217,000 vehicles, the Postal Service owns the largest share of the US government’s civilian fleet.

Electric vehicle promoters and environmental activists said the electric mail fleet could be a key tributary to the auto industry’s investment in clean cars.

Biden administration officials hope it will convince the Postal Service’s rivals to speed up their climate pledges, many of which rely on carbon-neutral delivery trucks.

“I think that puts pressure on them to up their game as well,” John Podesta, White House senior adviser for clean energy innovation, told The Post. “If the Postal Service can move along with this kind of aggressive plan, the public expects those companies that made these long-term ads to catch up in the near term.”

Amazon, whose founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post, has promised to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040, and owns nearly 20 percent of electric truck maker Rivian. It’s in the midst of amassing a fleet of 100,000 Rivian EVs it hopes to have on the road by 2030.

FedEx has committed to carbon-neutral operations by 2040 with plans to electrify its transportation and delivery fleet by then. It has promised to buy electric cars exclusively by 2030.

UPS plans to become carbon neutral by 2050 and use 40 percent more alternative fuels by 2025.

The Postal Service will continue to purchase internal combustion engine vehicles because half the fleet still consists of delivery trucks and trucks that travel longer distances to transport mail between cities and states.

“What this does is accelerate our ability to maximize electric vehicles,” DeJoy said.

The Postal Service is restructuring its extensive mail processing and delivery network to reduce unnecessary transportation and convenient facilities reserved for electric vehicles. Mail carriers will be concentrated in central locations rather than using post offices in small towns to take advantage of existing infrastructure and cost savings associated with electric vehicles.

The Biden government’s zero-emissions fleet starts with the USPS

When the Postal Service published its first vehicle replacement plan in 2021, it was slated to produce just 10 percent of the electric fleet. The rest were gas-powered vans—with fuel economy at 8.6 mpg with the air conditioning on—that could be retrofitted for battery power later by swapping parts under the hood. But postal officials quickly abandoned this strategy because of the cost and technical complexity.

Congressional Democrats, state officials and environmental activists were outraged. Sixteen states, plus the District of Columbia, have sued to block the 10 percent electricity plan, as have some of the nation’s leading environmental groups.

Podesta said he confronted DeJoy about his agency’s plans when the two started talking in September. By then, the Postal Service said 40 percent of its new trucks will be electric vehicles.

“I told him I thought the original plans were completely insufficient,” said Podesta, who described the talks as friendly and meaningful. “I think we thought it was crucial to our success and overall [climate change] program. So we stuck with it, pushed it, pushed it back, pushed it back.”

DeJoy said Podesta was “receptive” and helped work through the Postal Agency’s chronic budget problems.

“Our job is to get mail to 163 million addresses first, and to the extent that we can fit in with other tasks of other agencies and the president, I want to do that,” DeJoy said.

Some of the Postmaster General’s harshest critics praised the ad. Adrian Martinez, an attorney with climate activist group Earthjustice who is leading a lawsuit against the agency over its vehicle purchases, called the new truck purchase plan “a sea change for the federal fleet.”

“Within a year, we went from a USPS plan to buy trucks with the fuel economy of a late 1990s Hummer to a visionary commitment to modernizing mail delivery in the United States with electric trucks,” he said. “We are grateful to the Biden administration for stepping in to put us on the right track for an electric future.”

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