The US Postal Service may not always been seen as a model of efficiency, but it has been making significant strides in lowering its carbon footprint. It has also been fairly open in reporting its efforts. It has set a goal of cutting it carbon footprint 20% from 2005 levels by 2020. In its first report on progress toward that goal, it has done pretty well having cut its energy use 9% between 2005 and 2008 (Post Office’s First Sustainability Report Charts Agency’s Green Path, GreenBiz, Nov 19, 2009). What is clear from that report is that the actual schlepping of mail is a big part of their energy usage. That makes a recent LA Times article interesting (Postal Service asks five firms to help it deliver in a green way, Feb 16). USPS has awarded contracts to convert several of its “Long Life Vehicles” to being electrically powered. The LLV are those angular trucks that replaced Jeeps with the steering wheel on the wrong side back in the 1990s. The Postal Service seems intent on getting their money out of these beasts:
The aging LLVs were built by a predecessor of Northrop Grumman Corp. in the 1990s. They have a modified General Motors S-10 Blazer powertrain and chassis and can carry 1,000 pounds of mail. The post office is looking at replacing them between 2011 and 2018. The typical LLV gets about 10 miles to the gallon and is on its second engine and its third or fourth transmission, according to the postal service. It is driven five to six hours a day, 302 days a year and about 16 miles a day. The bodies are built from a rustproof aluminum designed to last at least 24 years. “The vehicle we got has a pretty solid body and interior. It would make sense to retrofit it and keep using it,” Gage said.
On top of that, local delivery vehicles seems well suited to be test case for electric vehicles:
I couldn’t conceive of a better application for an electric vehicle than as a postal service delivery van,” said David Mazaika, chief operating officer of Quantum Technologies. Postal trucks typically travel a short range rarely more than 25 miles daily, easily navigable on one battery charge battery. They usually move at low speeds, reducing the drain on the batteries, Mazaika said. And they are maintained by “trained fleet mechanics,” he said.
Now, one has to admit that any argument that electric vehicles are “green” requires turning a blind eye to their batteries. Very little about batteries is environmentally friendly. That said, this seems like a cool project. For all its faults, the Postal Service seems to be in a strong position to demonstrate that there is a market role for electric vehicles. If they can make it work, I suspect that it would pressure on other firms to revise the make ups of their fleets.