After years of delays, the United States Postal Service has at long last awarded a contract to replace its aging and increasingly on fire delivery fleet to Oshkosh Defense, a major military manufacturer. Before we get to what we know about these new delivery trucks that will perhaps one day be as ubiquitous on American roads as the current iconic boxy trucks, we must get one thing out of the way: the new trucks look really fucking weird.
To be honest, I kind of love it. Car design over the last decade has taken a decidedly aggressive turn as the “faces” of cars went from low and happy to high and aggressive. While this truck is certainly tall, the front bumper is nice and low while the hood appears to go no higher than about an adult hip, a delightful change of pace from the SUV trend that has plagued this country for more than two decades. This truck is strange and instantly recognizable and looks to me like a friendly duck.
Unfortunately, the USPS has decided not to lead the way on the electric vehicle future as so many hoped just a few weeks ago. As I tried to warn you, it was always exceedingly unlikely the USPS would buy an electric-only fleet, and indeed that has come to pass.
The new vehicle will have both an internal combustion engine and electric version, according to the press release, but did not say how many of each would be made. The electric versions “can be retrofitted to keep pace with advances in electric vehicle technologies,” the press release added, although it’s not clear what exactly this means. I initially read this as leaving open the possibility that gas versions could later be converted to electric, although that is a time-consuming, expensive, and laborious undertaking for one car, much less tens of thousands of them. It could also mean the EV versions can have batteries and drivetrains easily swapped, but as anyone who has, say, had an engine or transmission replaced in their gas car knows, that’s not particularly novel. The USPS did not respond to a request for more information on these questions before publication.
The order is for a minimum of 50,000 vehicles and a maximum of 165,000 over a 10-year period, with an initial contract worth $482 million to finalize engineering designs and convert factories for production. Deliveries of the delivery vehicles will not start until 2023. Given the pace at which the far more efficient and environmentally friendly hype train is chugging EVs along, it is entirely possible every gas version delivered by then will already seem hopelessly antiquated.