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Earlier in the week I posted on the Department of Energy’s $300 million grant for developing municipal vehicles to run on alternative fuels as well as construction of corresponding fueling station. Afterward, I saw an essay discussing the opportunity for the United States Postal Service to transform its fleet of local delivery vehicles from petroleum-driven to electricity-based. A report from the USPS Inspector General concluded:

Our evaluation determined that broad use of EVs in the Postal Service delivery fleet would be operationally feasible. Current EV technology would work well with the average mail delivery driving distance of approximately 18 miles per day. Previous delivery operations tests under favorable environmental conditions within California have shown that the EV performance levels were adequate for mail delivery ranges of up to 40 miles a day and battery technology has advanced considerably since then resulting in significantly increased driving distance ranges. Only about 3 percent of the delivery fleet has driving distances that exceed that daily distance.

Because the government is currently making investments to advance battery technology, we suggest the Postal Service phase in any electrification of its fleet so it can capture future benefits before broad implementation. One area that should be further explored is how effectively EVs operate under adverse environmental conditions, such as very low winter temperatures.

The Postal Service has 219,000 vehicles of which 146,000 perform deliveries, averaging about 10 miles per gallon. Improving the efficiency of this fleet would eventually be an economic boon to the Postal Service and our fuel dependency. However, such upgrades come at an initial cost, a cost which the Postal Service may not be able to currently afford.

This problem of cost made me think of other large vehicle fleets that could be improved, and what better place to start than the US military. The military industrial complex has always advanced technological research and products, including advances in the semiconductor, nuclear technology and the internet. The military is looking into hybrid electric vehicles currently. However, there too there are concerns about effectiveness and operations in extreme conditions.

Here’s hoping that military and government development of alternative fuel vehicles will help propel American consumer choices as well.

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