Going Postal

US postal Ford vanToday as my postal carrier’s rumbling old van heaved to a stop and planted itself in front of my mailbox while delivering Christmas card cheer, I could not help but imagine how much more pleasant it might be for me, the mailman and the air if that same van were electric.

All year, every year “the mail must go through”, and the U.S. Postal Service has accomplished that feat with very little interruption since 1775 using a variety of transportation modes varying from human horse power and horse-drawn wagons to massive 18-wheelers. Furthermore, delivering mail courtesy of kilowatts is not a new and revolutionary idea. In 2001 Ford Motor Company actually delivered 500 Ford Ranger EVs— mostly in California and Washington DC — for USPS use. However, EVs and POs got very well acquainted much earlier than that. A speed record for mail collection was set back in 1899 by a Columbia electric automobile — taking half the time of the more common horse-drawn wagon. And “during the 1911 Christmas season” — exactly 98 years ago –” New York’s electric vehicles operated night and day with batteries and drivers charging every eight hours.” In fact, EVs were consistently used in the U.S. postal service until about 1917.

Clearly, then, it is a back-to-the-future scenario for the US postal service and EVs. According to the Washington Post, “The postal service operates the largest civilian fleet of vehicles in the world with about 220,000 vehicles traveling more than 1.2 billion miles each year.” Most postal carriers work stop-and-go routes averaging about 25 miles. Even though modern EVs are capable of traveling 4 to 9.6 times greater distances, low-mileage postal routes seem destined to pair up with easy maintenance, pollution-free all-electric vans. Eco World found that many postal routes required up to 400 stops per day — something that is very taxing to traditional gasoline or diesel powered vans with attendant high maintenance costs, downtime and noxious tailpipe emissions fouling neighborhoods all across the country.

That is why the timely introduction of Congressman Jose Serrano’s bill, HR 4399, couldn’t be more relevant and overdue. The bill, if passed, would legitimize the testing and the deployment of 20,000 electric delivery vans for the U.S. postal service.

Let’s hope Serrano’s “e-Drive” bill accelerates through the usual house and senate roadblocks / political machinations and ultimately . . . delivers.

Posted by Linda Nicholes

Photo courtesy of EcoWorld

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