Surprise! The Postal Service is purchasing more electric delivery vehicles than it had previously said it would. The agency is more than doubling its buy, though it's still far short of electrifying its whole fleet.
The USPS is in the midst of a multiyear process to turn over its fleet of aging and fire-prone delivery vehicles. Its initial order of 50,000 next generation delivery vehicles from Oshkosh Defense included just 10,019 EVs, with the rest being gas-powered. But the agency told Reuters that it would be boosting its total EV purchase to 25,000 delivery vehicles. Overall, at least 40% of USPS's 84,500 vehicles purchased in the coming years will be EVs, by the agency's estimate.
This is the latest development in the Postal Service's ongoing EV drama that's involved Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, states and nonprofits all hammering the agency over its decision to buy mostly gas-powered vehicles.
In April, the House Oversight and Reform Committee grilled the agency about its failure to electrify its fleet. Despite the pressure then, the agency refused to budge on its plan to purchase tens of thousands of new gas-powered vehicles. Later that month, a group of 16 states and some environmental groups sued USPS for not electrifying its fleet faster.
The agency has cited the cost, its own financial situation and the challenges of using EVs in rural areas as reasons for its gas-powered purchase plan. But its own inspector general refuted some of those issues in testimony before the Oversight and Reform Committee in April. EVs are also generally more cost-effective for a variety of reasons, but particularly now with surging gas prices.
For context, USPS's existing fleet of 217,000 aging trucks is the largest share of the federal government's civilian vehicle fleet. The Biden administration has said it wants to throw the weight of the government behind addressing the climate crisis, including transitioning the entire federal fleet of vehicles to zero-emissions models by 2027. That would help bring EV costs down for the average car buyer, speeding up the transition to electrified transit in the U.S. (Transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.)
The USPS is an independent agency, though, and is run by Trump holdover Louis DeJoy. The financial constraints on the agency are also real, thanks to a 2006 law, and USPS has said it needs more money from Congress to go fully electric. Wednesday's news that it's increasing its purchase of EVs, though, is a sign that the public pressure could be changing its calculus a bit.