Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Greening the USPS Fleet: a Word from PRC Chair Ruth Goldway

In light of the introduction last week of Congressman José E. Serrano's new legislation - H.R. 4399,

The American Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Act or "e-Drive" - MST and Parcel wanted to ask an early proponent of this concept, PRC Chairman Ruth Goldway, her impressions of this legislation and the whole concept of "greening" the USPS fleet.
Q: You have been a very strong proponent of electric delivery vehicles for the Postal Service. What does this pending legislation mean for the USPS, the consumer and the shipping and mailing community? The legislation addresses several National priorities to promote energy efficiency, energy independence, national security, and environmental progress. In addition, it is an important step toward developing a new 21st century infrastructure for the country and the green jobs that will go with it. The real world experience gained by deploying electric vehicles will help increase the use of electric vehicles throughout our nation.For the Postal Service, it promises to lower the costs of operating a massive delivery fleet and make the Service an even better neighbor in the community by using quieter, cleaner vehicles. Not only will last-mile delivery costs be reduced but postal customers, shippers and mailers also will benefit from the lessons learned and innovations that come from this effort.Much of the Postal Service's delivery fleet is fast approaching the end of its design service life. This is a unique opportunity to make this change.
Q: The Postal Service faces serious financial difficulties. What benefits will this have for the Postal Service?The Postal Service currently operates the Nation's largest civilian vehicle fleet. Every penny increase in the price of gasoline translates into millions of dollars in increased costs for the Postal Service. Electric vehicles have the potential to greatly lower those costs for the Postal Service. This would not solve the Postal Service's financial problems, but it would be a step in the right direction financially. It would also reinforce the historic role that the Postal Service has played in advancing the technological and social progress of the nation. For example, the Postal Service had been critical to the growth and development of the nation's road, rail and air transportation networks.Now the Postal Service is in a perfect position to help the Nation advance its energy independence and security goals, and promote a cleaner environment.
Q: Tell us more about V2G technology - it sounds exotic. What is V2G, and will it save the Postal Service money?Vehicle to grid (V2G) technology is a simple concept. In general, V2G involves utilizing vehicle batteries as a collective stored energy reservoir to help supplement or stabilize the electric grid. Power produced at off-peak times could help fill gaps during times of peak energy demand. However, in the case of the Postal Service, I believe the best use of this energy reservoir would be to help balance out unevenness and fluctuations found in every electric power grid. The companies that run the electric networks are willing to pay good money for availability of electric energy reservoirs under names such as "regulation services." This could provide a source of income for the Postal Service.
Q: Is the plan to retrofit the existing Long Life vehicles or to purchase new ones? That would be a decision that remains for the Postal Service and lawmakers to work out. The workhorses of the Postal delivery fleet - the LLVs - were designed with long-life bodies that were intended to be refitted with new drive trains as the old ones wore out. However, other structural components are starting to wear out and the details of retrofitting these vehicles with electric drive trains present a challenge. In any case, Postal Service will soon need to update its fleet, either with totally new vehicles or with a combination of some new trucks and some retrofitted LLVs.
Q: We're hearing the term "Emissions Free Delivery" for the new electric delivery vehicles, a 21st century twist on the old Rural Free Delivery program. Do you expect that this new program will enhance the image of the Postal Service? Yes. I think the Postal Service would garner not only hands-on technical expertise but also considerable goodwill from the public from this effort. Deploying electric vehicles throughout the nation will raise the visibility of the Postal Service in a positive way and will help encourage other large fleets to venture down this path.
Q: The Postal Service seems to be focusing on Last-mile delivery, and it appears to be paying off. UPS, FedEx and other package companies now turn over millions of packages per day for Last-mile delivery by the Postal Service. Will there be advantages for USPS delivery and logistics partners? Everyone would stand to benefit from breakthroughs in vehicular technology that reduce delivery costs and pollution and promote a more secure power supply for the nation, its citizens and its businesses. Reducing last-mile delivery costs would open up cost-sensitive market segments and permit increased cooperative endeavors between the Postal Service and its competitors-partners.
Q: Are there any additional benefits, social or economic, to greening the Postal fleet? Yes - Lower costs, a healthier environment, a more secure nation, and the potential to create new growth industries for the 21st century. For example, buying quantities of electric delivery vehicles would form an important initial market for the type of batteries to be used in these vehicles. It would build valuable new skills and training in electric vehicle repair and maintenance for the Postal Services experienced vehicle mechanics. It's all about progress and continuing the great traditions of American ingenuity and leadership, and, of course, Postal Service participation in both.

Larson Notes & Satire: Another great idea let’s spend money we don't have to update the fleet. Hybrid cars currently are more expensive than a normal car and are really not build for the stop and go of a postal vehicle.

To me, long term success will embrace hydrogen technology, for which the postal service and their built in post office network are perfectly suited for deployment and even resale to the general public. Pure electric vehicles are still not there for practical rugged commercial application and the limited amount of battery resources will make it even almost impossible as well as expensive to deploy.

Where do we go as far as an effeceint postal service? Let’s get politics out of it and sit down with real people who have real answers who are not beholden to anyone.

Howard Larson
Larson & Associates
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