By on April 22, 2009

“Just in time for Earth Day,” trumpets Chrysler Blog, “Chrysler showed off four all-electric Town & Country minivan concept vehicles to the U.S. Postal Service, with the hope that mail delivery service across the country could soon be cleaner and quieter.” Digging a little deeper, Automotive News [sub] reports that Chryco “plans” to provide a fleet of 250 EV T&Cs to the postal service, with testing to begin later this year in Michigan, NYC and North Carolina. The A123 Systems-powered EV minivans, previously seen only in Chrysler’s ENVI vaporware lineups, are reported to have a range of 40–50 miles. Just like Chevy’s Volt! With about as much chance of making it into production. Never mind; Pr waits for no man.

“Fleet is ideal for what we’re presenting today,” ENVI Prez Lou Rhodes tells AN. “Fleet customers travel an average of 18 to 20 miles per day.” Of course retail versions will have Volt-alike ICE range extenders, says Rhodes without betraying a trace of doubt that such a vehicle will ever see the light of day.

Meanwhile, Chrysler has contracted local utilities to provide charging stations and is applying for federal stimulus money to expand test fleets nationwide. Interestingly that particular grant program is wholly discretionary, meaning there’s no limit to the amount of cash Chrysler could gobble up in the name of electrification “demonstration.”

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17 Comments on “Chrysler Goes Postal...”

  • avatar

    I’ve always thought the USPS should use hybrid vehicles for the bulk of their neighborhood mailbox-to-mailbox work. It seemed like it was the perfect application for start/stop technology and regenerative braking.

    Had I known they’d start with Chrysler products, however, I would have written letters advising against the initiative. Ahhhh, I shouldn’t dump on Chrysler, but still, they should be dropping little electric motors in the existing mail trucks, not buying Caravans (I would have said Town and Countries but I don’t know how to properly pluralize it).

  • avatar

    Looks a bit oversized for the application.

  • avatar

    If/when the USPS eliminated Saturday delivery they’ll automatically become 16.67% “cleaner and quieter” without any additional expenditures.

  • avatar

    Is there statistics on the average service life of the USPS truck/thingy? Do they as routinely rebuild/replace engines and transmissions as wear items as they do with taxi cabs and school buses? Or are they “disposable”, like passenger cars?

    As jakecarolan suggested, they should figure out how to add that mild hybrid stuff during such a rebuild. If they don’t go full electric, no ICE, I don’t see enough advantage to replace existing fleet with a new model, negating all existing skills and knowledge of keeping the vehicles running.

  • avatar

    I don’t suppose that the 40-50 mile range is with lights, wipers radio and heat/ac blower operating. If not, then letter carriers may actually be carrying letters by the end of the route.

  • avatar

    Eerily reminiscent of the 1990s Dodge TEVan:

  • avatar

    “Is there statistics on the average service life of the USPS truck/thingy? Do they as routinely rebuild/replace engines and transmissions as wear items as they do with taxi cabs and school buses? Or are they “disposable”, like passenger cars?”

    Hahahaha. They DO rebuild the engines, but if I remember correctly they’re the 2.8l “Iron Duke” GM V6s…so I’m assuming they get rebuilt pretty often. The fuel economy isn’t so hot either.

    And as for being too large…the USPS still uses Aerostars for some applications, so a T&C would fit in quite nicely.

  • avatar

    findude beat me to the punch with a link but yes, everything old is new again.

    In my part of the city, the deliverer parks at the top of the street and walks down the block, dropping the mail at each house. I imagine this is the application they’re thinking of, rather than replacing the RHD Grumman type vehicles (which were originally designed to be electric).

    The USPS actually had a sizable electric fleet that was discontinued just after GWB came to office.

  • avatar

    The USPS LLV (long life vehicle) ihas been made by Grumman for a long time, the chassis is based on the then contemporary S-10. However, I’ve noticed (several times) that they use a Ford steering column (or at least steering wheel/airbag).

    They do use the old Iron Duke, which is a 2.5l I4.

    I’ve also seen the USPS use SWB Caravans.

    EDIT: the USPS trucks I’ve seen with Ford steering wheels are apparently the USPS FFV (flexible fuel vehicle) made by Ford and Utilimaster. I wonder if it is powered by the 2.3l I4 found in various Fords and Mazdas.

  • avatar

    I’ve always felt they should use proven solutions, like the Ford Hybrid’s that the San Francisco taxis.

    Here is a recent article from the LA Times about how happy the SF cabbies are with their Fords.

    One key point that was mentioned in the article was how long the brakes lasted. Because of the regenerative braking, the cabbies were amazed how how little service their cars needed.

    If the USPS buys Ford Hybrids, then they get proven solutions for a US company.

  • avatar

    Best solution would be to engineer a new EV drive system for the existing LLV and just do capital rebuilds.

    A CNG conversion with a “camel hump” style tank on the roof for the longer routes could also work.

  • avatar

    Maybe a Ford Transit Connect with their hybrid system would be right up the USPS’ alley, and I’m sure some other customers too. Otherwise the Escape and Fusion would not meet the needs of the USPS very well.

  • avatar

    The mail trucks in my town (Bloomington-Normal IL) already run on compressed natural gas. I was under the impression that this choice of fuel was already wide-spread for the USPS.

  • avatar

    @ midelectric :

    “The USPS actually had a sizable electric fleet that was discontinued just after GWB came to office”

    Actually Ford beat Chrysler to the punch on this one when they delivered 500 electrical postal vans to the USPS in 2001. They even had a 50 mile range.

  • avatar

    What a waste of money for Chrysler. And does it even matter for a company that’s clearly on its way down the tubes? Even if they had these vans completely ready to build and deliver (which they clearly don’t), this wouldn’t even come close to saving them, so WTF are they doing wasting time and money on a project like this? Way too little, way too late. Pull the plug already.

  • avatar

    I like the idea of a hybrid or electric minivan. I just wish it wasn’t a Chrysler.

  • avatar

    Maybe some parts of Chrysler want to survive.
    Bury themselves in a niche with a potential bonanza if they can pull it off.

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