Congress Says USPS Electric Fleet Either ‘National Example’ or ‘Green New Deal Guinea Pig’

April 7, 2022 by Kate Michael
Congress Says USPS Electric Fleet Either ‘National Example’ or ‘Green New Deal Guinea Pig’
Mail trucks outside the Hicksville Post Office in New York. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — In a rare show of bipartisan support, the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 was signed into law this week, yet many aspects of USPS modernization, including the future of an all-electric postal fleet, appear to remain starkly divided along party lines. 

“There has never been a better or more important time to invest in clean energy. Transitioning to electric vehicles is a key part of that effort, and postal services should lead the way,” Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said at a House Reform Committee hearing on “developing the USPS fleet of the future” on April 5.

But Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.,  said Democrats just wanted USPS to be a “guinea pig for its radical Green New Deal agenda.”

USPS, with the largest civilian fleet in the federal government, has about 230,000 aging vehicles that will need to be replaced, not only because of high maintenance costs and poor gas mileage, but because they have reached or exceeded their useful life and do not have modern features such as airbags or air conditioning. The service has no electric vehicles in its existing postal fleet. 


USPS began the process of securing a new fleet over seven years ago, signing a 10 year contract with Oshkosh Corporation in February 2021 for up to 165,000 vehicles with either internal combustion engines or electric vehicles, the precise amount of each to fluctuate according to its needs and findings throughout the duration of the contract. 

In its initial order of 50,000 delivery vehicles, USPS planned to purchase 5,000 electric vehicles, but after further review prompted by the House Oversight Committee, the order was doubled to 10,000. 

“Our procurement was deliberative,” Tammy Whitcomb, inspector general for USPS explained in her testimony. 

“We found that electric vehicles are well suited for most postal routes, and there are clear benefits to their adoption,” she said, though advantages did not outweigh the challenges in every instance. 

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, less scheduled maintenance, lower and more stable energy costs, and encouraging the growth of the electric vehicle market in the U.S. were main benefits, but up-front costs would be significantly higher, and there would be costs of installing charging infrastructure that would vary at each station across the nation. 

Another concern was that EVs introduced “competing operational objectives” — plainly put, a focus on environmental sustainability doesn’t always fit into the USPS mission to “provide the American public with trusted, affordable, universal service.”


“We understand the national interest in moving toward [EVs]… and are committed to doing our part,” Victoria Stephen, executive director for USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle testified. “But we deliver to 163 million addresses, in all climates and landscapes, six days a week. Our vehicles cannot be compared to others in nature, use case, or scope. We have very specific vehicle requirements… Some routes are not candidates for electrification; some require all-wheel drive vehicles.”

But these reasons simply weren’t justified for some committee members. Mahoney suggested USPS was “basing the cost of EVs on faulty assumptions” and accused Postmaster General Louis DeJoy of “cooking the books” to justify what Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., called “outdated investments.”

General Services Administration Acting Director Jill Naamane testified that USPS’s cost and benefits estimates “raised questions,” including the actual cost of fuel, fuel efficiency, maintenance costs and emissions. 

But Postal Service representatives committed to reassessing changes in the market with each additional order, and Naamane agreed that “some aspects may become easier to manage as the market evolves.”

While the Biden administration has issued an Executive Order calling for all federal vehicle acquisitions to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035, it is important to note that this order does not apply to the USPS, which is not an executive agency for purposes of the order.

“We should not let the carbon footprint of the Postal Service be harmful both to America and to the world,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., said. 

“To continue purchasing gas guzzling vehicles is bad for the environment, bad for the Postal Service, bad for customers, and bad for national security. It is a bad policy decision,” Maloney said.

But Republican members couldn’t agree that transitioning to an EV postal fleet could achieve economic or environmental goals. 

“We are not against the Postal Service acquiring electric vehicles,” Comer said. “We are against mandates.” 


Comer and Republican colleagues also expressed concern about accessing and securing rare earth minerals necessary for EV batteries, including nickel, cobalt, and lithium, as well as the environmental toll of extracting those materials.

Kate can be reached at [email protected]

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