By on May 3, 2019

Mahindra ROXOR

Mahindra, the company that produces the intentionally Jeep-like Roxor, is looking at sites in Detroit, Oakland County, and Genesee County in the event that it lands a $6 billion contract to supply the U.S. Postal Service with delivery vehicles.

While USPS has already begun supplementing the now-ancient Grumman LLV with more-modern vans and utility vehicles, it launched an official search for a replacement in 2015. Mahindra was one of the finalists, along with AM General, Karsan, Oshkosh-Ford, Utilimaster, and VT Hackney.

The Postal Service plans on making a final decision this summer as to who will build some 180,000 replacement vehicles over the next six years. 

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, Rick Haas, president and CEO of Mahindra Automotive North America, said he likes the company’s odds, acknowledging that the USPS’ decision will influence the direction it takes as an automaker.

“If we get a piece of that or all of that contract, that opens a bunch of doors, shuts a few other ones,” Haas said at a Troy Chamber of Commerce event from earlier this week. “If we don’t get it, it shuts some doors, opens some other ones. So we’re going to evaluate it all.”

Mahindra invested $22.3 million in a facility in Auburn Hills for assembly of its current Jeep CJ-based Roxor, renovating a former GM facility to use as a parts distribution center.

From Crain’s Detroit:

Haas told an audience of business executives and professionals that the automaker has six different products in development at the Mahindra North American Technical Center in Troy that could be paired with production of a postal service vehicle at a second manufacturing facility.

“The question is which ones do you start to push,” Haas said. “It’s going to depend on what happens over the summer.”

Haas declined to say which sites within Michigan the company is leaning toward. But he indicated they were all brownfield sites that need redevelopment.

Economic development officials from North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona and Wisconsin have all approached Mahindra about building a plant in their states, Haas said.

With the USPS making its decision relatively soon, Mahindra will have to make some quick decisions if it wins the contract. Haas indicated that the firm will likely need to settle on a manufacturing location by the end of 2019. He said the final choice will be based upon “ease of business, your personal loyalties and how much money are you going to make.”

[Image: Mahindra & Mahindra]

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47 Comments on “Mahindra Examines 2nd Michigan Plant For Potential Postal Contract...”


  • avatar
    redapple

    Genesee County near I 75.
    Good – Flint needs it.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Postal vehicles really need to be electric or hybrid vehicles, not Jeeps or Jeep knock-offs

    • 0 avatar
      salmonmigration

      Their mail truck prototype has nothing to do with their Jeep descendants. And they are proposing two GM powertrains, one of which is a mild hybrid.

    • 0 avatar
      xtoyota

      Yes, that makes sense….. Hybrid
      Also a USA company…keep profits in USA

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Mahindra and Karsan may be the token foreign makers for bidding purposes. Neither has a large scale US manufacturing facility.

        VT Hackney makes truck/van bodies, but would have to partner with somebody for chassis/running gear, and while Utilimaster makes step vans useful to the Postal Service, they’re large vehicles that would have to be downsized, and they would need a partner for hybrid drivetrains.

        I’ll guess Oshkosh partnering with Ford to modify the Ford van with a tall roof for step-in utility and having hybrid drivetrains available, would be the favorite, though AM General has the large scale production and expertise to make a competitive bid.

        I have years of experience dealing with government bidding, and you can assume the specs were written with one or two bidders in mind. Those two are likely to get the majority of the bid award, possibly with small subcontracting goodies for one or two others, all of them American.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          If I recall correctly, the call for bids on these things came out almost four years ago and they intended for them to be very specifically sized for the smallest possible footprint for the cubic footage of cargo space, along with a high mpg and reliability factor. As such, I doubt we’ll see them come out with Ford van bodies on some third-party chassis. AM General was clearly one of the bidders and they always make pure custom vehicles for the USPS. Now, what drivetrain they carry may be in question but the intent, again, was for the best possible fuel economy while meeting reliability standards.

          Now, taking all that into consideration AND looking at the Mahindra Roxor, I have no doubt Mahindra could build to the required specs and Mahindra DOES have at least one US assembly plant. We have also already heard that Mahindra is in talks with GM for one of their ‘closed’ plants. This would be an ideal way for Mahindra to get what it wants in the American market without putting up with the nearly fraudulent marketing effort they were facing from their previous effort to come to the US–where their tractor dealers wanted to sell Mahindra’s trucks along-side their very popular tractors but would keep the brand out of the general consumer’s vision.

          Now, am I saying Mahindra will win the contract? No. But if they do, it would give Mahindra the kind of exposure they want in order to start selling their body-on-frame SUVs and pickup trucks here in the States.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Yes, I agree, I’m actually surprised that they’d consider something other then all electric

      • 0 avatar
        volvo

        Maybe with experience managing large fleets that need to be dependable they know something about all electric that we don’t.

      • 0 avatar
        EGSE

        We don’t know what kind of requirements were in the contract for performance capability…battery-electric would require a large reserve capacity if they’re expected to be a 50-state solution that includes very long routes in very cold conditions. That would unnecessarily drive up cost across the fleet to handle a subset of use cases.

        At a quick glance, battery-electric would be an ideal fit in the majority of temperate regions in the U.S. as well as urban areas everywhere with their shorter range needs.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Yes, I’m sure there’s exceptions, but for most urban postal routes an electric vehicle seems ideal. They could combine them with ICE vehicles for more demanding routes

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @EGSE: “battery-electric would require a large reserve capacity if they’re expected to be a 50-state solution ”

          Not really true. With a heat pump and given the slow speeds, most routes should be fine in subzero temps. From personal experience with a 3600 lb vehicle with 140-160 Wh/kg energy density cells at 55 mph I got around 3 miles per kWh at -5F. I think CATL has 300 Wh/kg cells in production now so you’d have a lighter vehicle. I’d think you could still get into the 3-mile per kWh range with a postal vehicle in subzero temps. I’d think a 30 kWh pack would work well. I’ve put in a lot of EV miles in cold temps and while the cold does limit range, you can still go long distances. At freezing, I’m even able to get 4+ miles per kWh without a problem on the highway. I do it all the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Many need 4×4 capability in order to make their rounds in snow, sleet and rain–especially in the northern half of the country. What they don’t need is massive power. Even the Roxor could be converted to battery-electric easily enough and maybe moreso than most.

    • 0 avatar

      Totally agree. US Government promotes EVs and at the same time money will go to dirty unreliable ICE vehicles made in India using technology from 1940s?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @ILO: Might I suggest reading the article again? They would be built right here in the good ol’ US of A, not India.

        Of course, the money would go to India–after the American workers got paid… What little is left, that is.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      That’s exactly what I was going to say.
      UPS and Fedex delivery trucks would save a ton of starter wear, fuel and emissions by going electric and/or hybrid.
      Electricity in many areas can be bought much cheaper at night, when the vehicles could recharge. It’s time for the postal service to modernize, especially if they plan to continue existing.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        FedEX does have a fleet of electric trucks that entered service sometime around 2011 ish. Don’t know what the reliability is but I can’t see it being worse than a typical diesel truck.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          Fedex just bought 1000 more.

          https://about.van.fedex.com/newsroom/fedex-acquires-1000-chanje-electric-vehicles/

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Why so you suppose they’re only buying a hundred of those Chinese-made electric vans and renting the other 90%? Why do you suppose they’re only doing it in California, where there are almost certainly regulatory coercions driving the decision?

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @toddatlas I’d be buying zero Chinese vans myself – fossil or electric. It’s not about coercion. It’s about getting a better more efficient vehicle. Nothing about being green. It’s all about business and costs. Just like many of us with EVs. Nothing to do with being green and everything about ditching slow, outdated, torque-lagged plagued fossilmobiles.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Let me pretend for a second that you’re a logical person instead of a shill-bot. If there is no coercion involved and EVs are viable without the carrot and the stick, why is FedEx only buying a few and only in California? It’s like saying that tossing salad is awesome because wimps do it to survive in prison.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Having worked with both from the vehicle supplier side, I can assure you that UPS and FedEx understand their costs down to hundredths of a cent per mile. I suspect that’s why they have switched from diesels to GM 6 liter gas on a lot of their parcel vans. They have done test programs with electrics and hybrids, but look to their mainstream rigs for guidance on where the true low cost solution is.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          Here’s an article on UPS’ web site.

          “electric trucks are expected to cost the company no more than regular diesel vehicles. Up-front price is no longer a barrier.”

          https://www.pressroom.ups.com/pressroom/ContentDetailsViewer.page?ConceptType=PressReleases&id=1519225541368-230

          https://www.campusship.ups.com/us/es/services/knowledge-center/article.page?name=inside-ups-s-electric-vehicle-strategy&kid=ac91f520

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        “It’s time for the postal service to modernize, especially if they plan to continue existing.”

        Hah, we talk about the UAW here and pension plans killing US auto, UPS is 10x worse supported only by the fact they have large growth especially with the internet age.

        Unless something crazy happens the postal services not named USPS will continue their old ways until forced to change.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I hope they get the contract .

    Lordstown plant is idle, might fit right in there…..

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    AM General is for sale.
    Grapevine says Mahindra is potential buyer.
    Mail trucks will be built in Indiana.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Whatever USPS decides the vehicle will need to be long lasting, easy to service, and have parts that are readily available and not too pricey. The current Grumman truck has a Chevy powertrain which meets those requirements. Having the 2.2 I-4 in my S-10 it has been a reliable engine with parts readily available and reasonably priced. A hybrid system would be a good choice. Keep this vehicle as simple as possible but with some modern conveniences and safety.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      A hybrid system is hardly simple; you have both an electric and a mechanical drive system trying to work in concert. Oh, I’m fully aware that the Toyota Prius is well established but we already know that Toyota is not a player in the USPS bidding and even their system hasn’t been worked to the level that a postal delivery vehicle is going to see. Stop and go, even at 15-25mph where you stop every 100-150 feet (or less) along the shoulder of streets and highways is going to stress systems unaccustomed to that kind of workload. Either pure ICE or pure electric is going to be far more robust than a hybrid system and electric motors are noted for hundreds of thousands of hours of use mean time between overhauls (which usually includes rewinding) which are typically less expensive than an ICE overhaul due to having so few moving parts. To me it’s much easier to swap out an electric motor and get the rig back on the road than it is to swap out or repair an ICE in the same environment.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I agree, I don’t think hybrid is a good solution for the reasons you state, but all electric seems like a no-brainer. I wish I knew what the selection criteria was

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Based on what I recall of the original call for bids, years ago, they’re looking at up-front cost, cargo capacity, and serviceability. They very clearly stated the vehicles were expected to remain in use for a minimum of 25 years. As such, I would not be surprised if they put over a million miles on each of them during their lifetime and servicing and fuel costs would need to be as low as possible.

          Personally, I think straight battery electric is the best choice but I’d also expect a remarkably simple arrangement using one or two motors on the axles (4×2 and 4×4) and a long-endurance battery such as the Tesla battery packs have so far proven out (compared to other brands’ gel packs, which are yet to be proven in the long term.) Since these things would rarely reach 45mph, I expect small motors with a combined total of 50hp (roughly equivalent to 100 ICE horses) would be more than enough.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Not all of these trucks are going to be door-to-door delivery. The parcel post vans are going to be bigger, cover a much larger area, and attain higher speeds.

            Many of the neighborhood delivery vehicles will be dispatched from central locations and need to use freeways to get to their service areas. That’s especially true in larger cities where real estate is expensive.

            Bottom line, the trucks will have to meet more than the minimum local delivery service requirements.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Well I don’t think all electric would work in rural areas where there is extreme weather. If USPS wants one vehicle for everywhere all electric would not be a good choice. There is also the ability to charge batteries which is not available everywhere. Also there is theft which could be expensive especially with the replacement of batteries. If not a hybrid then all ICE with an I4 that is readily available. Until the battery technology gets to where the batteries are less expensive, smaller, more range, and quicker charging times it doesn’t make sense to have a fleet of all electric vehicles especially in places like Alaska.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      While I won’t argue that your concerns aren’t possible, I do believe they’re unlikely.

      I live very close to a semi-rural post office and honestly I see no problem with them installing chargers at Level 2 grade to fully charge the small batteries these delivery vehicles are likely to need. Certainly, even with government contracts, the electricity to charge them would cost roughly half what the same capacity in regular gasoline would cost and as gasoline prices rise, the savings for electricity would increase, keeping operating costs lower than the current fleet. Take this farther to two separate fully rural USPS offices of which I am aware and pass frequently, a single charging stand would meet those Post Office needs more than sufficiently and yes, they DO drive 4×4/AWDs out of there, one typically driving a modified Subaru and the other currently driving an RHD Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

      The likelihood of battery theft would be minimal, since they’re more likely to be Li-Ion battery packs rather than conventional lead-acid batteries–both for a lower weight and lower operating cost even with the potential need for replacement. The type of theft you suggest seems less likely as you get more rural.

      And as far as charging times; a 30-40kWh battery pack would only need a few hours to charge compared to the 75-100kWh battery packs in a Tesla. Since Post Office vehicles are parked overnight, 8 hours on a Level 2 charger would probably have it at full charge AND warmed up for daily use, even in sub-zero temperatures.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Certainly not suitable for all areas but the fact is the average home delivery vehicle runs 7 miles per day. I’d bet a 50 mile range when new would cover 95% or more of all needs as even the age and cold cutting the range in 1/2 and then again in 1/2 and you’d still have near double the needed average range. As a units range starts to fall you shuffle the newest units into the highest demand routes and push other units down a demand tier.

        I guess it may be different else where but all the postal vehicles at the local offices are parked in fenced and presumably camera equipped lots. So I just don’t think theft will be a widespread issue. Plus the design could be such that it is difficult to remove and being a specialized unit they would raise suspicion at the scrap yard.

  • avatar

    “Mahindra invested $22.3 million in a facility in Auburn Hills for assembly of its current Jeep CJ-based Roxor”

    Mahindra would disagree with the statement that the Roxor 4×4 is based on the CJ. Yes, Mahindra started building Jeeps under license from Kaiser back in the late ’40s or early ’50s, but they insist that their current 4×4 shares nothing with those old Jeeps other than the basic layout.

    I’d say it’s based on the Jeep CJ about as much as the GM’s current LT engines are based on the original Small Block Chevy V8.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Partially true, Ronnie. After all, even Mahindra has had 60 years to update their platform. However, the Roxor is still almost identical to the old CJ-2 of the ’50s while Mahindra’s trucks and SUVs are body-on-frame designs that are logical and obvious extensions of those old chassis. They’re not made to be highway cruisers when the average road in India, where they’re currently built, tends to be less… civilized, than American roads. I doubt you’d see the level of ‘refinement’ in a Mahindra truck that you see in a modern JL Jeep by FCA. As for the Roxor, note that its capabilities are almost identical to the original Willys models, up to and including a top speed of about 45mph.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Do we even know yet if Mahindra’s Postal prototype is based on the Roxor or if it is completely new? It does surprise me that USPS is getting a bid from a non US based corporation since most Government contracts require bids from US based manufacturers.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I see a problem with all electric vehicles being used as the only USPS vehicle. Battery technology has not reached the point of being competitive price wise with ICE and the size and weight of batteries along with the range still is not there yet. True the electric engine itself is low maintenance and can be designed for life but battery technology is not to the point where a delivery vehicle can be out on deliveries nonstop for most of a day. I live in an area that is rapidly growing and mail delivery vehicles are out as late as 8PM. A couple of hours of charging would put that vehicle out of service. True you can charge overnight but what about a vehicle that is out on deliveries for 8 to 12 hours in all kinds of weather. In extreme cold a battery does not have as much range. Maybe in 10 to 20 years the technology will develop to where these concerns will not be a concern but we are still a ways off from depending on all electric vehicles being all all purpose vehicle for every place. I would like to see that happen but we are still a number of years from that happening.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      The range of a battery depends more on how it’s used rather than on any fixed figure. It’s been noted above (I believe, maybe below) that the typical mail delivery vehicle only travels about 7 miles. That seems short to me but the point is that with a 30-50kWh battery, steady-state highway driving range would be anywhere around 100 miles or more. Since these delivery vehicles rarely travel at highway speeds and are typically running around 100 horses or less under the hood, we can assume the smaller motors simply won’t draw as much energy as larger ones meant for highway use. Maybe that assumption is invalid but I highly doubt most postal delivery vehicles are capable of more than 65mph.

      No, what a postal vehicle needs is the ability to stop and start hundreds of times a day, which means with a manual transmission they spend the vast majority of the mileage in first gear at low, low speeds. A relatively small battery under the floor of such a vehicle, if given sufficient built-in management capability, would likely see no more than a 50% drop in range in the cold (assuming pre-heated while plugged in) would still have nearly double the typical range required to perform its rounds and possibly much, much more. And again, if the vehicle is plugged in when it returns to the pool at the end of the day, it would still have 10 to 12 hours to recharge when the battery may only need 6 to 8 hours of charging time at most and possibly as little as four hours to top off.

      I believe the technology is much farther along than you expect but I can pretty much guarantee that the issues seen with first-generation Toyota Prius and first-generation Nissan Leaf have been resolved, giving any potential BEV postal vehicle a more reliable driveline than you think.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Fact is because of their use pattern the USPS vehicles get terrible MPG, this says 9mpg https://www.greatbusinessschools.org/usps-long-life-vehicle/ In addition that abusive use pattern means that over the typical life of a home delivery vehicle it has the engine and/or transmission replaced more than once. Much of that is due to idling the vast majority of the day, with an engine that really wasn’t designed for that and a typical use of foot too the floor followed by foot off the gas just in time to make it slam into 2nd gear on non walk routes. For walking routes it is always run cold as just about the time it starts to think about getting warm it is shut off for an hour or so.

      EVs are the perfect solution for the USPS home delivery in the vast majority of locations, even including some that are fairly rural as the newest can by put there are rotated out to lower and lower mile routes as the batteries age.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Scoutdude–It depends where you live as to if the postal vehicles are parked in a fenced in area. Many postal vehicles are parked out in the open. Also you still have to make the battery serviceable so I don’t know how you would make them harder to remove unless some kind of locking system could be installed to make it harder for thieves to remove. I do think eventually that electric vehicles will become more common but the battery technology has to be developed further.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @jeffs: When an EV is plugged into a charger, it communicates status to the charger. If someone unplugs the vehicle or removes the battery, a notification is/can be sent out. Some vehicles lock the plug to the vehicle too.

      “True you can charge overnight but what about a vehicle that is out on deliveries for 8 to 12 hours in all kinds of weather”

      I found an unverified source that says average distance per day for a postal delivery vehicle is 40 miles. That’s less than 3 hours to bring back to full with a lowly level 2 charger.

      ” the size and weight of batteries along with the range still is not there yet.”

      CATL is now shipping 300 Wh/kg cells and along with other manufacturers, they are on the path to 500 Wh/kg. A base Model 3 is 50 kWh. At 4 miles/kWh that’s 200 miles range. In extreme conditions (based on personal experience) maybe 100 miles range a 2 miles per kWh. The cells for a 50 kWh at 300 Wh/kg should weigh 166.66 kg or 367.44 lbs (if my math is correct). Bump that up to 500 Wh/kg and the cells weigh 100 kg or 220 lbs. With a lighter weight, efficiency and range go up too, so you could even go with a smaller battery. Ten gallons of gas is 63 lbs and a transmission that’s eliminated maybe another 60 lbs. The battery case and cooling will add some more weight, but the weight difference isn’t that huge given current battery energy densities. Several labs have various electrode coating technologies that if they can actually get them into production at low costs, should easily get the density up to 1000 Wh/kg in a few years.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Per the link above 96% of their delivery vehicles travel less than 40 miles per day. 91% travel less than 30 mi per day and 69% less than 20 mi per day, at least at the time of that study. 16% are under 10mi per day, which gives a fair amount of room to use a battery that has lost the majority of its range.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I guess I remembered it wrong this https://www.greatbusinessschools.org/usps-long-life-vehicle/ shows 18 miles per day is the average with many doing much much less.

      Like I said in my state, all the post offices I’ve seen are fenced and the reality is that fencing the lot would not be a large expense.

      As far as making it hard to steal I was thinking of a locking mechanism or just putting it in a location that they can’t roll under and drop down quick and easily. It is not like the batteries need servicing like a lead acid that needs its water topped up. You would remove it when it is being reconditioned/replaced which should be only occurring several years apart. So you don’t need a set up designed for a battery swap scheme which so far has never worked out.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would be very surprised if the USPC went to an all electric fleet anytime soon. I would say if USPC goes to an electric fleet it would be better to start in a metropolitan area that has less distances to travel. Not all mail deliveries are 30 miles or less and that is why it would be better to start in a metropolitan area where that would be the case. I don’t think it would be good to start rural mail delivery with electric vehicles–but I could see this working in a large metropolitan area.

    “Several labs have various electrode coating technologies that if they can actually get them into production at low costs, should easily get the density up to 1000 Wh/kg in a few years.” Yes I have read about this but the current USPC bidding would not include that technology. It would probably be better if the USPC replaced their vehicles over a longer period of time and allowed enough flexibility to include a few electric vehicles where they could be better used and then expand the fleet of electric vehicles when the density of the batteries is increased. The problem with most Government contracts is that they bid on current technology and do not allow for flexibility. I know this first hand when the Government bids on replacement laptops it includes only the current technology and by the time the laptops are made and delivered they are out of date. It seems that the Government needs to add more flexibility to contracts to allow for newer improved technology.


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