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Your mail carrier may soon drive an electric delivery van

By Zachary Hansen, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published: January 28, 2024, 6:00am

The U.S. Postal Service is electrifying its fleet of delivery vans to help shrink its carbon footprint — an effort that’s first taking shape in Atlanta.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and White House officials unveiled dozens of electric delivery vans and 100 chargers Monday at the South Atlanta Sorting and Delivery Center off James Jackson Parkway. The electric vans are a centerpiece of USPS’s $40 billion “Delivering for America” reform plan and the federal department’s goals to reduce its carbon footprint by 40% by the end of the decade, a target DeJoy announced during the event.

With Atlanta as the launch location, USPS plans to install tens of thousands of chargers across the country to power at least 66,000 electric vans by 2028. The initiative aims to not only reduce carbon emissions for the world’s largest mail deliverer but to also make EVs commonplace across the country.

“These are such a visible symbol,” Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said of the delivery vans and their iconic eagle logo. “Having these vehicles everywhere in all these communities is going to be a really important way to help people get comfortable with the technology and what it’s going to do for our country.”

The Biden administration is pushing adoption of EVs as a way to mitigate the effects of climate change. The White House has unveiled plans to electrify large portions of the federal vehicle fleet and aims to have more than half of all new vehicle sales be electric by 2030.

The Ford E-Transit vans are among a wave of new vehicle types USPS is rolling out to replace its longtime — and outdated — fleet. The familiar workhorse of the postal service’s fleet, the Grumman Long Life Vehicle, dates back to 1987, and DeJoy said they “long ago should have been replaced.”

In 2021, USPS selected Oshkosk Defense to manufacture a new line of delivery vans called Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDVs). The Postal Service is spending roughly $10 billion on its new fleet, which includes agreeing to purchase more than 106,000 NGDVs by 2028. Of those, 45,000 will be electric.

Congress also gave the agency $3 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act to buy more EVs and chargers.

The first NGDVs are expected to be available this summer, but to more quickly electrify its fleet, USPS entered into a contracts to buy 9,250 Ford E-Transit vans, including those shown off Monday in Atlanta.

More than 235 mail carriers are based out of the South Atlanta Sorting and Delivery Center, and the facility’s coverage area includes more than 1 million people. DeJoy said USPS plans to install chargers at 130 sites by the end of this year, but he said some of the older facilities can’t accommodate EV charging infrastructure.

“Most of them I’d be afraid to plug a coffee pot in, let alone an electric vehicle charger,” he said, adding that USPS plans to consolidate more locations into regional hubs like the south Atlanta facility.

The automobile and transportation industry is the country’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, which is why DeJoy said electrifying the USPS delivery fleet makes new climate goals possible for the agency.

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John Podesta, senior advisor to President Joe Biden for clean energy innovation and implementation, said the USPS unveiling its first electric infrastructure in Georgia is fitting given the state’s fast-growing EV industry.

The Peach State has landed multibillion electric vehicle factories, dozens of part suppliers and battery makers in recent years. Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says the Peach State has attracted more than $25 billion in EV supply chain investments and commitments for more than 30,000 jobs since 2018.

While EV sales eclipsed 1 million in the U.S. last year for the first time, automakers and industry experts voiced growing concerns that not enough Americans seem ready to switch to a plug-in car. USPS electric vans will be many people’s first exposure to EVs, Podesta said, which he hopes will generate more people to give up their gas guzzler.

“If a postal service delivery vehicle can go electric, so can someone’s personal car. So can a truck. So can a school bus,” he said.