By on February 25, 2021

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has revealed its new mail truck after a 6-year competition, selecting the duck-billed option from Wisconsin-based defense contractor Oshkosh. Its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) will officially replace the Grumman Long Life Vehicle (LLV) starting in 2023. Though the LLV spent the last 20 years being gradually supplanted by anything large enough to haul a bag of mail, it’s technically the last vehicle commissioned for use by the USPS.

Sadly, the postal service’s decision also represents a major loss for Ohio-based Workhorse. Its battery electric W-15 seemed to represent the government’s greener ambitions and was capable of 80-mile journeys before a gasoline-powered range extender kicks on. While a smart design, we think the manufacturer would have been better served by having ties to the military, like Oshkosh and Grumman. Workhorse’s share price has been falling ever since news broke that the USPS wouldn’t be needing its services, however analysts are under the impression that it will eventually rebound.

Meanwhile, things are going pretty well for Oshkosh. The company added added 3-percent to its share price yesterday after a 6-percent gain immediately after news about its decade-long deal with the USPS broke on Tuesday.

From the USPS:

Under the contract’s initial $482 million investment, Oshkosh Defense will finalize the production design of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) — a purpose-built, right-hand-drive vehicle for mail and package delivery — and will assemble 50,000 to 165,000 of them over 10 years. The vehicles will be equipped with either fuel-efficient internal combustion engines or battery electric powertrains and can be retrofitted to keep pace with advances in electric vehicle technologies. The initial investment includes plant tooling and build-out for the U.S. manufacturing facility where final vehicle assembly will occur.

The contract is the first part of a multi-billion-dollar 10-year effort to replace the Postal Service’s delivery vehicle fleet, one of the world’s largest. The Postal Service fleet has more than 230,000 vehicles in every class, including both purpose-built and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) vehicles. Approximately 190,000 deliver mail six, and often seven, days a week in every U.S. community. The NGDV, along with other COTS vehicles, will replace and expand the current delivery fleet, which includes many vehicles that have been in service for 30 years.

Despite looking a little goofy, the NGDV is designed in a way that maximizes interior volume and outward visibility for drivers who will be required to move against traffic in pedestrian-heavy areas in order to make deliveries. It was also tall enough for a postal worker to stand inside while organizing parcels. Those aspects were shared by most of the concepts vying for the USPS contract. But a lot of them also possessed some form of electrification, which the NGDV doesn’t appear to prioritize.

Instead, Oshkosh plans on running with low-emission, internal-combustion engines with a plan to add battery power later on. Apparently the platform makes retrofitting incredibly easy, even if that sounds exactly like something a company seeking government contracts would say. USPS head Louis DeJoy stated that something like 10 percent of the first order from Oshkosh would possess any electrification, suggesting that it would take another $3-$4 billion dollars to go battery-electric. Frankly, we weren’t positive that electric mail trucks would be a good fit for rural communities anyway, so it might be better to wait for the technology to mature a bit.

The NGDV has a few questionable design choices that likely reduce production costs but don’t seem particularly safe. Its singular, low-mounted reverse light feels a bit low rent and we might say the same about the turn signals. We imagine those will be improved after enough people complain. But some of the assumed risk will be offset by the vehicle’s 360-degree camera, automatic emergency braking, and collision avoidance systems.

While we like the old Grumman boxes, they’re long past retirement. The USPS is already operating a fleet of over 100,000 long past their two-decade best-by date, and they lack creature comforts like air conditioning. If that doesn’t bother you and you’re in the market for a cheap, no-frills beater with loads of character, they’re bound to start appearing in government auctions the minute Oshkosh starts rolling out their replacements.

“Our century-long history of delivering products to customers, operating in some of the most demanding and severe conditions on the planet, uniquely positions us to bring exceptional reliability, safety, and maintainability to USPS’s Next Generation Delivery Vehicles,” John Bryant, Executive Vice President, Oshkosh Corporation, and President, Oshkosh Defense, said in a statement. “Partnering with trusted suppliers, we have developed a purpose-built solution to support the current and future needs of the USPS.”

[Image: Oshkosh]

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34 Comments on “Mail’s Here: USPS Picks Oshkosh Defense NGDV...”

  • avatar

    WorkHorse was the better choice for America. Oshkosh’s already well placed and highly funded lobbying firm on K Street made it known to the politicians that Oshkosh was the better choice for those in Washington. This will give Oshkosh a nice gravy train ’till the next oversees military conflict.

    • 0 avatar

      Workhorse can’t build their ancient W15 pickup, because they only have ONE prototype and the design was never actually completed – it doesn’t exist. They need your tax dollars to string the US government along for another 10 years and then still not build anything. They’re a complete joke and stock scam.
      A better choice would have been a company like, oh I don’t know, Ford? Just modify an existing van platform with a customized body and save $$$

    • 0 avatar

      I remember when Oshkosh grabbed the FMTV program from Stewart and Stevenson. They have good connections in Wash DC. The FMTV seemed like a chance to award Wisconsin over Texas by the Obama administration.
      In this case it was both swing states in the competition.

    • 0 avatar

      nothing new under the sun. Millionaires give a few thousand to a handful of politicians. Politicians tell bureaucrats what they want to happen. Decision made. Millionaires make millions. Bonus, all parties pretend there doing the taxpayers a favor by sprinkling in dog whistles like “green”. As if that was ever really a thing. Just replace cheap plentiful, reliable fossil fuel, nuclear and hydro power production with expensive, dirty, unreliable power from wind, solar and biomass. Easy.

  • avatar

    The fact is no other application is better suited to an EV than a mail delivery vehicle. 96% of all LLVs travel less than 40mi per day. The average truck drives under 20mi per day. Because they spend so much time at starting and stopping they fleet average is 9mpg. Over 80% of the vehicles are used in what is defined as a city.

    So yeah the fact that they may not be suitable for 4% of the routes does not mean that they shouldn’t have the majority of the fleet be EVs.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, it is very disappointing. All that talk about switching to EV fleet is only talk. That was the most evident opportunity to take action in that direction and they screwed it. Yeah, I know, lobby. And who is the SecDef? Yeah, military contractor, I know.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        So is it time to put the fact checkers back to work? I’d like to see Maury Povich in the role.

        “You stated the US Government would be transitioning to an EV fleet…we have determined that is a lie. Also, you are not the father…Bill Clinton is.”

    • 0 avatar

      Major miss not going EV here. The use case (short trips, lots of stopping) combined with sitting overnight in a secured lot is an ideal EV world.

      Also missing – the Prime Logo on the side. Heck other logo on the side. Why not sell local businesses some ad space? This is a vehicle you see daily. If your retired its likely the highlight of your day when that white box with the blue eagle pulls up.

    • 0 avatar

      Battery electric is unsuitable for the snow zone, or the desert zone, even in urban areas. The experience of California and now Texas with uncertain electrical power is another factor.

      ICE engines have a history of long term reliability with regular maintenance; battery life and replacement cost for a long-lived vehicle like a mail truck is still an unknown. The USPS is hedging its bets on battery powered vehicles, as it should.

      • 0 avatar

        @lorenzo: “Battery electric is unsuitable for the snow zone, or the desert zone, even in urban areas. ”

        That’s not true. If anything, they’re more suitable for cold than ICE. I’ve never had problems starting my EV in the cold. I know lots of people that can’t say that about their ICEs. All you have to do is have a liquid-cooled/heated battery and there isn’t a huge problem. EVs sell well in Norway, a country not known for balmy weather.

      • 0 avatar

        Definitely a problem for areas of extreme cold. The heating load is a per hour use so the affect on range will be huge. Extremely hot areas will also see a big hit on their usable range but not as bad as will be seen in the cold areas.

        • 0 avatar

          “The heating load is a per hour use so the affect on range will be huge.”

          Again, it’s not huge. Not trivial either, but not huge.

          “Extremely hot areas will also see a big hit on their usable range”

          Not really. I’ve never seen it. I’ve driven in 100+ degree temps without a real hit in a car that’s heat pump equipped.

          These tests were with liquid-cooled heat pump-equipped cars. One a 25 degrees F, and the second pair at around -10F to -14F. At -14F, he’s still able to do some decent distances. In this test, it definitely proves that EVs are suitable for the snow zone. I see lots of snow in the videos and they don’t seem to be having problems.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes it will because the average mail truck goes very slow and has the window open too. There are reports of up to 40% loss of range when people are driving EVs with resistive heat in cold weather at regular speeds. The average car does an average speed of 33 mph. The average postal vehicle speed is much much slower since they average ~20mi per day.

            There are two basic use cases a motor route where all regular mail can be delivered with out a dismount and park and walk routes.

            In both cases the HVAC demand will be higher than everyday “normal” driving. Either you are running with the window down or you park it and let it get cold or hot and then expect it to get to temp in a couple of minutes while heading down the street a couple of blocks.

          • 0 avatar

            Then don’t use resistive heat. From personal experience of EV ownership in the winter for over 6 years, the heating systems doesn’t draw nearly as much power as the motor does pushing the vehicle at 65 mph. I can’t remember the exact number ()(it comes up on the display), but it’s small in comparison. So, 20 mph isn’t a problem. For 20 miles, even at 2 kWh per mile in the cold (which is extremely high consumption) you’d use 40 kWh. I think the worst I’ve seen was maybe 2.3. Tesla’s heatpump uses 735 watts in one test I’ve seen so that would use around 6 kWh for an eight hour shift. So extreme cold with resistive heat, one test shows 2170 watts. That’s 17 kWh for an 8 hour shift. So, with resistive heat and 40 kWh for the motor, we’re talking maybe 57 kWh in extreme conditions with resistive. With heatpump maybe 46 kWh. So, you’d need a 60 kWh battery for a heatpump and 80 kWh for resistive. Battery costs are coming down, so it seems doable to me. Go for the 80 kWh to be safe. For snow, make sure they have AWD and winter tires for more efficiency and less slipping and better efficiency. My mailman (or post office) put hanging plastic strips like for a commercial food freezer to keep the heat from going out the vehicle window, so that would help too.

    • 0 avatar

      I support the sentiment of an all-EV USPS fleet, but it some places there would be other logistical problems. Such as many post office facilities being 100 years old or more, and the infrastructure upgrades that such would entail for charging. Also, many USPS facilities are leased, so there would be landlord/tenant issues. No question eventually the majority of USPS vehicles might be EV, but not 100%.

      • 0 avatar

        The fact that a building may be 100 years old is irrelevant. The trucks will be parked in the parking lot and there will be considerable expense adding the required electrical service to any location that is going to charge a significant portion of their fleet, no matter how new the building might be.

        The fact that many of the locations are leased is also irrelevant. Tenant improvements are the norm in the commercial real estate world as are build to suit agreements with long term leases. I know that one of the local post offices is leased and it was built specifically for the post office. However since the needed equipment will all be in the parking lot it wouldn’t be that big of a problem to remove to cut the line and remove the above ground equipment if they don’t renew the lease.

    • 0 avatar

      Keep in mind that this is the US Post office we are talking about. The independent organization loosely associated with the US government, hemorrhaging cash, reeling from the pandemic and pillaged by the previous administration (whose appointed CEO is still at the helm of the titanic in this case)

      I am sorry to say, but I think less up front capital expenditure, proven all weather performance, easy maintenance, existing infrastructure were all strong selling points for the winner of this contract and for good reason.

      At this point in time, EV fleets are better suited for organizations with a bright future looking to market their green cred, have very deep pockets as well as less red ink because large scale implementation is still sort of in beta all things considered.

  • avatar

    Is that front windscreen all one piece?
    That might be a bit of a pricey maintenance item.

    • 0 avatar

      A number of commuter bus makers like Setra (owned by Daimler) have gone to the one piece windscreen that’s as large or larger. So has Siemens who supplies cars for the San Diego Trolley light rail. There’s probably a lower cost and/or ease of assembly angle involved.

  • avatar

    I live in town but have a rural carrier and he drove his own Jeep Wrangler until recently but the USPS gave him a Mercedes van 6 months or so ago with the USPS Eagle on the grill instead of the Mercedes star. He said he loves it, and it seems to be holding up to the grind of unpaved roads.

  • avatar

    So why exactly can’t we just use existing commercial vans like the rest of the world?
    It really seems like a big waste of tax payer money for a little return.

    I mean, you can get a RHD Minicab for less than 9000 USD each (24K for an EV version) or a Renault Kangoo and Toyota HiAce for 20~25K USD each.

    • 0 avatar

      “Buy American” is one major consideration. A purpose-built design also gives the USPS more flexibility than an off-the-shelf approach like a retrofitted Transit or Transit Connect. Oshkosh knows its stuff when it comes to building military/commercial vehicles, but you can’t help but wonder if this was just the Biden admin throwing a well-known defense contractor yet another bone.

  • avatar

    “Its singular, low-mounted reverse light feels a bit low rent …”

    Stupidest cost cutting ever. I’ve had two vehicles with that “feature”, a 2009 MINI (really, for what you guys charge we only get one backup light?), and my 2008 xB. I believe the 08s are the only year with one, props to Toyota for rectifying that idiocy. I just put an LED in mine and the difference is, well, night and day.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota NX in some other countries have the reverse light on only one side. Idiotic and unsafe if you asked me. Penny wise, pound foolish.

      Pretty sure this postal truck will have features added/removed/improved once it goes into production.

  • avatar

    Hopefully, this goofy-looking thing will find a way to deliver the mail faster than what is currently occurring.

    • 0 avatar

      It has a very large storage capacity, so we can draw our conclusions from that.

      I mailed a package via USPS to a destination 300 miles to the north. The first thing it did was travel 75 miles to the south, and sit there for three days. Then it went north and bypassed its destination by over 100 miles, and took three more days to get delivered. That sort of “efficiency” can not be cost effective.

    • 0 avatar

      For that, you’d need leadership that cares more about delivering packages on time than about ensuring a union worker never receives a red cent of overtime. Sticking it to the union and its members is the #1, #2, and #3 priority of the current leadership. Service to stamp-buyers is somewhere way way down the list.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        If an organization that exists to deliver stuff couldn’t make money in 2020 when everyone was getting stuff delivered, maybe it’s time to shut it down anyway and let the entities that are managing to make money pick up the slack. There are entities that have mastered this business model. The post office is seemingly not one of them.

        As such, while it makes sense for your mail to arrive in a purpose built delivery vehicle, it likely makes the most sense for it to be one of the brown ones UPS has been profitably operating for years.

        • 0 avatar

          The USPS IS making money on packages, that’s why they’re buying bigger trucks than the old ones. Where they lose money is being forced to keep old post offices open, and letter and parcel rates Congress won’t let them raise.

          San Diego’s 50 year old central post office was replaced with a bigger, more centrally located one, and the building sits empty – Congress won’t let the USPS sell the property. There are also over 100 charming 19th and early 20th century rural post offices that are more museum than post office, but the USPS has to pay thousands monthly to maintain them and much more for postal workers to keep them open.

          We pay 55 cents for first class postage. Germany charges 96 cents equivalent, France $1.14, and the UK $1.19.

          Meanwhile, Parcel Post is making money, despite Congress keeping rates down so low that Amazon and FedEx use it during busy periods for overflow. Parcel Post delivers more parcels than Amazon, FedEx, and UPS combined.

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