Interest builds in potential for USPS switch to electric vehicles

Another company has joined the queue of technology specialists seeking the chance to switch part or all of the United States Postal Service delivery fleet to electric vehicles. MAG International, Inc., a California-based subsidiary of LadyBug Resource Group claimed yesterday (Monday) that it could convert the USPS fleet to electric for between $25,000 to $30,000 per vehicle.

It said industry averages for conversions were about $40,000 per vehicle.

Other manufacturers told Post&Parcel yesterday that their prices would be in a similar area, though most were unwilling to detail specifics.

MAG said it has successfully converted one a USPS mail truck to an electric drivetrain, and intends to bid for any USPS contract to convert its delivery fleet, should a contract emerge.

Eric Baron, CEO of MAG, insisted: “If the USPS decides to convert to Electric Vehicles, we are in an excellent position to acquire a portion of the business.”

California-based AC Propulsion, which has already engineered an electric vehicle as part of an ongoing USPS trial, told Post&Parcel that a $25,000 per unit price level for converting delivery trucks to electric drivetrains was possible in a bulk order.

Spokesman Mike Caudill said: “Based on a volume order of 10,000 units, you could get down to $25,000 per unit or less to convert a USPS truck to an electric drive train.”

The USPS is one of the largest single users of petroleum-based transport fuel in the world, with 146,000 Grumman LLV Mail Carriers making up America’s largest civilian fleet.

Yet the vehicles achieve little more than 10 miles per gallon in fuel consumption.

While the Postal Service has been testing electric vehicles in various forms since the nineteenth century, with serious trials in the 1970s, 1980s and in the early 2000s, the technology has failed to take root.

A report last August from the Inspector General put electric vehicles back on the USPS agenda, while a bill put forward by New York Congressman Jose Serrano in December 2009 proposed spending $2bn to provide 20,000 electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for the Postal Service.

The so-called “e-Drive” bill has not made much progress in Congress so far, but in the mean time since December 2009, the USPS has been running a trial of five different electric vehicle conversion technologies in Washington DC, which could lead to a wider uptake of electric power systems.

The demonstration has included technology from AC Propulsion, Indiana-based Bright Automotive, German company EDAG, California-based Quantum Fuel Systems and ZAP Automotive, another Californian company.

Alex Campbell, director of communications at ZAP, which has been working with Remy Electric Motors to engineer the vehicle for the USPS demonstration, told Post&Parcel that the question of a broader adoption of the technology was now very much up to Congress.

But, he suggested that moving to electric vehicles could help the USPS cut its operating costs considerably.

He said: “The best use of electric vehicle technology anywhere would be the Postal Service, which is currently getting 10 miles per gallon on those old vehicles, but could be using electric systems that can achieve 100 miles per gallon (equivalent).”

The USPS has been testing out other alternative vehicle options, including hybrid electric vehicles, hydrogen-powered cars and more than 44,000 vehicles fueled by ethanol.

However, Campbell said today’s electric vehicle technology would particularly suit the USPS delivery requirements, where vehicles average less than 40 miles a day and are not required overnight, offering plenty of time for recharging.

Following last week’s mid-term elections, President Obama highlighted the wider adoption of electric vehicles as a key priority for his administration, and an issue on which he believed he would be able to drum up support in a Congress that now has a stronger Republican representation.

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