By John Addison (2/15/10)
Most of the 220,000 U.S. Postal Service vehicles only travel 20 to 25 miles per day making them a good match with the range of an electric vehicle. Hundreds of stops make hybrids and electrics ideal for capturing braking energy and regenerating the batteries.
Instead most USPS vehicles run on gasoline, increasing our nation’s dependency on oil. The popular mid-sized delivery vans achieve about 10 mpg. The 40,000 that sometimes run on E85 ethanol do worse. The Postal Service generates over 5 million tons of CO2 per year, only 12 percent of that is from its 220,000 on-road vehicles.
A Winton electric automobile was first used by the Postal Service in 1899. It only took an hour-and-a-half to collect mail from 40 boxes, less than half the time it took the horse-powered wagon. Over the years, USPS has used a variety of hybrid and electric vehicles.
No one type of vehicle meets all delivery needs. Jets and long-haul trucks move mail across the nation and around the world. Many delivery routes demand larger delivery vans. Others are best served by smaller and lighter vehicles.
Mail is being delivered on a trial basis by three-wheel electric vehicles in Florida, California and Arizona. The T3 has a range of 40 miles, a maximum speed of 12 mph and a load capacity of 450 pounds. Powered by two rechargeable power modules, the T3 has zero gas emissions and costs 4 cents a mile to operate.
The Postal Service is testing a fourth generation fuel-cell Chevrolet Equinox. The crossover vehicle has an electric drive system, lithium batteries, and a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to keep delivering electrons for extended range. When I visit my alma mater in Irvine, I see the Equinox used to deliver mail. The Irvine hydrogen station is used by the University, corporations, the USMC, and early personal drivers of the Honda FCX Clarity. A second fuel-cell vehicle is being tested in Washington, DC.
In New York City, the Postal Service has had 30 electric 2-ton vehicles on the street since 2001. They were recently joined in Long Island, NY, by two 2-ton hybrid electric vehicles.
The USPS uses medium-duty hybrid electric vans from Eaton Corporation (ETN) and Azure Dynamics (AZD.TO). They join the 10 existing Hybrid-Electric Ford Escape vehicles currently in the fleet.
USPS had ordered 185 Chrysler plug-in hybrid vans, but new Chrysler executives have cancelled the ENVI electric and plug-in vehicles. The electric vehicle manufacturing was cancelled even though that was part of Chrysler’s argument that it needed $20 billion of loans from the taxpayers.
Quantum (QTWW) announced on February 1 that it was selected by the US Postal Service (USPS) to produce an advanced electric postal delivery vehicle based on the widely used Long Life Vehicle (LLV) platform. Quantum is also making the hybrid-electric drive system for Fisker.
Quantum was competitively selected, along with 4 other companies, for participation in a 1 year demonstration and validation program to be conducted by the USPS for the use of electrification of the 178,000 LLV segment of the postal delivery fleet, the largest civilian fleet in the country.
The short range mail routes with numerous stops make postal delivery vehicles an ideal application for a battery electric vehicle with regenerative braking features. Under this program, Quantum will integrate its Quantum Quiet™ high efficiency battery electric drive system, into a Grumman LLV, and optimize for the 500 to 700 stops per day use of a postal delivery vehicle. UQM has received from Quantum an electric-motor and propulsion system order for the USPS electric drive system.
A bill is now being debated in Congress, HR 4399: American Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Act, that would enable the USPS to have 18,000 hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as part of its fleet, plus at least 2,000 pure battery electric vehicles. The bill would reduce the need for dirty peaking power plants by accelerating the use of smart grid and vehicle-to-grid. The bill calls for 3,600 charging stations. The bill priorities buying of American made vehicles with American made advanced batteries. Recycling and reuse of the batteries is part of the proposed legislation. The bill calls for $2 billion of estimated spending, investment, and research.
The USPS has demonstrated zero-emission leadership for over 100 years. In sun and darkness, rain and snow, carriers walk billions of miles delivering mail and packages.