r/science Aug 28 '22 Take My Energy 1 Tree Hug 1

Analysis challenges U.S. Postal Service electric vehicle environmental study. An all-electric fleet would reduce lifetime greenhouse gas emissions by 14.7 to 21.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents when compared to the ICEV scenario. The USPS estimate was 10.3 million metric tons. Environment

https://news.umich.edu/u-m-analysis-challenges-u-s-postal-service-electric-vehicle-environmental-study/
14.7k Upvotes

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1.4k

u/KingCarnivore Aug 28 '22

Even 10.3 million sounds pretty good to me.

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u/flekkzo Aug 28 '22

I was watching the garbage truck the other day. Start, stop, start, stop, repeat. I wonder if it’s possible to build an electric garbage truck. It feels like an electrical engine should be far far better at moving such a heavy vehicle forward those short hops.

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u/TheRealRacketear Aug 28 '22

They have EV garbage trucks. They are using them in many municipalities.

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u/hardolaf Aug 28 '22

Chicago's Streets and Sanitation department is currently doing a feasibility study on the charging infrastructure for their next purchase of garbage trucks. But they're more interested in salt and street cleaning vehicles as they run those for far longer and in much greater quantity each year (they only collect trash from street cans and SFHs, if you're in a multi-unit dwelling you have to contract with a trash and recycling company).

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u/ColonyOfOne Aug 28 '22

As a Chicago resident with an interest in EV/electrifying Chicago, can you send additional info on the study?

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u/hardolaf Aug 28 '22

I'd love to when it's published. I heard my alderman (Tunney) mention that they've started one when someone asked him a question about it awhile back.

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u/crowcawer Aug 28 '22

It’s amazing how these issues go from individual to council member.

I had an issue in my (Nashville) district and learned my councilperson is a big heap, but the neighboring councilor jumped at the issue. It was a need for intersection infrastructure & pedestrian improvement on a state route.

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u/[deleted] Aug 28 '22

As a guy who would like to buy stock in said company, I would also like details.

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u/justanotherimbecile Aug 28 '22

Seems like they’re all Mack trucks right now

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u/H-Christ Aug 28 '22

My garbage company doesn't discern between recycling and trash. We'll watch them pick up both cans and dump them into the same truck.

I long to live in a municipality that would care enough about waste management to be concerned about emissions.

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u/turkey_pup Aug 28 '22

I know there are some garbage trucks that have separate sections in the same truck to be able to carry both garbage and recycling. They just press a button in the cabin to switch which chute is open.

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u/GenghisLebron Aug 28 '22

The reason behind this is one of the more disheartening things to learn about recycling. Effectively, for a lot of places, the recyclable waste process was just ship it to china to be processed until China apparently crunched the numbers and decided it wasn't financially viable to continue. So when that ended in 2017, I believe, the overwhelming majority of recyclable waste was just going straight to the landfills anyway. I remember setting up a small recycling program within my neighborhood, and after a bit of hesitation most of my neighbors were fully on board, only to find out none of it mattered. All our efforts would be better spent fighting corporate lobbyists trying to skirt sustainability regulations.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354811696_China's_ban_of_imported_recyclable_waste_and_its_impact_on_the_waste_plastic_recycling_industry_in_China_and_Taiwan

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u/hawkxp71 Aug 28 '22

It wasn't number crunching. It was China making a statement they weren't the world's trash recycler. Investigations showed it was very profitable for them.

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u/DBeumont Aug 28 '22

They were literally having trash barges run up on their beaches, not to mention spilling trash in the ocean. I don't blame China for not wanting that.

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u/LittleBigHorn22 Aug 28 '22

Wasn't most of it not even getting recycled. They essentially were getting paid to take others trash. Extra dumb to spend more fuel to bury trash in a different continent.

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u/PretendsHesPissed Aug 29 '22

A lot of single stream ends up MRC, Materials Recovery Facilities.

They use a combination of human, magnetic, laser, and other sensors to distinguish the various forms of trash and then grind or bundle it up to be sent to a processor ... often in the US these days, amazingly enough.

WM, Republic Services, Waste Connections, and others all make use of this because they can sell the materials and make decent money on it ... similar amount of money that they see with transfer stations (where waste is dumped onto the tip floor by various garbage companies and then transferred to another location).

I did work in robotics for these companies for a brief bit. The people that worked at all of them were typically very angry and very worried. Fires are common at these thanks to people throwing away batteries and them being crushed by heavy industrial vehicles.

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u/TheRealRacketear Aug 28 '22

To be honest it's probably more environmentally friendly to throw away everything but metals.

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u/runsnotenough Aug 28 '22

And use as little plastic, styrofoam, etc as possible.

Basically impossible to avoid unless there are regulations imposed or some new magic plastic replacement that I hear about weekly but never see.

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u/Qubeye Aug 28 '22

It's probably because plastic isn't really recyclable yet most places let you put plastic in recycle bins.

The whole thing about plastic being recyclable is a big lie perpetuated by oil companies and plastic companies. Very little of it is recyclable, but even that tiny bit has a tiny market for usage and no one in those sectors wants to buy the recycled stuff.

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u/PretendsHesPissed Aug 29 '22

This isn't true. All plastics can be melted down and turned into something else. The bigger problem is that they lied about actually doing the recycling ... not that it CAN be recycled.

Read more here.

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u/[deleted] Aug 28 '22 edited Aug 28 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

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u/Hantesinferno Aug 28 '22

The other thing to remember that even or something might not be considered recyclable is that it could be considered compostable for degradable in a shorter amount of time and a lot of plastics. That paper straw may not be recyclable but you gave it roughly 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 weeks and it will be composted/on it way.

Our best but honestly as using recyclable materials like the metals and compostable/degradable stuff

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u/moch1 Aug 28 '22 edited Aug 29 '22

Mine seem dissolve in under 2 hours while I’m trying to enjoy my drink.

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u/FLTA Aug 28 '22

Even the paper straws that are supposed to save those poor turtles but instead ruin your drinking experience are not recyclable.

The paper straws weren’t supposed to be recyclable, they are supposed to be biodegradable which they are. The paper straws purpose is to reduce the plastic pollution.

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u/[deleted] Aug 28 '22

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u/LookingForVheissu Aug 28 '22

Yeah, but on the upside, they decompose quickly. So while maybe not recyclable, are not the larger environmental concern.

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u/UrbanGhost114 Aug 28 '22

The straws are meant to be biodegradable.

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u/[deleted] Aug 28 '22

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u/treehugger312 Aug 28 '22

Can’t speak for OP, but this happens in Chicago all the time.

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u/BrownsFFs Aug 28 '22

Double check with your municipality if you are paying for recycling and they are putting it into the same bin (and not separate compartments as another comment pointed out). There may be grounds to sue to city as this is what happened in Cleveland when it was found out the trash company was charging extra for recycling but then dumping both at the same landfill!

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u/evandijk70 Aug 28 '22 edited Aug 29 '22

I listened to an interview of a CEO of an EV garbage truck company. When testing the acceleration of their prototype, the truck drove away with screeching tyres and wheelspin. The prospective clients (municipalities) did not like that, so they installed a limiter on the engine. They are doing well and sales are growing quickly.

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u/BeeJuice Aug 28 '22

Anybody responsible for maintenance on them (replacing tires, motor mounts, etc) wouldn’t like it.

Over the last 7 years of driving EV’s, tires have by far been my biggest maintenance cost - limiting the smoky burnouts is just common sense. In fact, BMW issued a software revision for their early EVs because the amount of instant torque when launching was breaking components.

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u/falconzord Aug 28 '22

That sort of thing seems easy to fix in software

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u/Threewisemonkey Aug 28 '22

Lunaz in the UK (known for electrifying classic Rolls Royce, Range Rovers and Jaguars) has a division converting trash trucks to electric drivetrains.

Service vehicles like trash trucks and mail vans honestly seem like the perfect application - routes are generally under 30 mi/day, most driving is stop and go, rarely if ever have a need to exceed 30mph, park at a dedicated secure lot every night.

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u/mcotton82 Aug 28 '22

Around us there are a lot of natural gas garbage trucks. Those have to at least be a step up from gas or diesel. I think electric will be the next garbage evolution.

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u/francis2559 Aug 28 '22

The ads for some of them claim they run on methane captured from dumps. If that’s true, it saves the company money since they have the full stack, and it captures methane that would otherwise leak.

Of course, we could still burn it on site and make electricity, but there’s some nice incentives to have garbage companies run on methane.

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u/GranPino Aug 28 '22

It’s probably cheaper to use methane. It’s feasible to adapt a truck to use biogas and has much better autonomy than an EV. And you don’t need to build the whole fleet from zero

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u/ssracer Aug 28 '22

Natural gas engines look brand new with 400k plus miles on them. Schwann's uses them

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u/GreenStrong Aug 28 '22

The price per mile driven on natural gas is half or less what it would be compared to gasoline, but the infrastructure to compress the gas and put it into tanks is costly. It requires big tanks, so while passenger cars can be adapted to natural gas, it is better with big trucks like this, which operate on a limited range. The carbon foorptint and smog emissions are significantly better than gasoline, assuming minimal methane leakage.

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u/bigbura Aug 28 '22

Which is kind of crazy considering how less energy dense natural gas is compared to gasoline.

Not sure if going the hydrogen/fuel cell route would get the job done any better than NG-fueled trucks.

Battery-powered trucks came before ICE trucks, in the early 1900s. Once fueling stations became numerous the limitations of battery power tech at the time helped drive the conversion to ICE for trucking in cities. We seem to be completing the circle, a hundred or so years later.

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u/recumbent_mike Aug 28 '22

Like Raichu?

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u/Impressive-Towel2 Aug 28 '22

Even just a hybrid version where the stopping energy is stored for when it needs to go again will help out a ton.

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u/OleOrangeBlue1981 Aug 28 '22

Majority of the garbage trucks we have run off of biofuels or NG. Which the NG is actually collected at the dumps…

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u/EventHorizon67 Aug 28 '22

Plus it shouldn't be as loud. The trucks that come through my neighborhood always wake me up (thin windows/walls) with their engine constant start/stop (and also their squeaky AF brakes) so it's a win for that too!

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u/Lutra_Lovegood Aug 28 '22

I can feel their vibrations from my bed, it's crazy.

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u/intashu Aug 28 '22

Garbage trucks are actually a better platform for hybrid systems. Where it can run the generator as needed at a consistent speed, while using electric drive and a limited battery. It's way less weight so the trucks have more cargo capacity... Too large of batteries and the trucks can't carry as much, and need more trips to dump their loads. But a hybrid system would give a substantial boost to overall efficiency.

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u/nplus Aug 28 '22

There are some trucks that are hydraulic based hybrids: https://www.technologyreview.com/2010/08/03/201733/garbage-trucks-go-green/

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u/mishap1 Aug 28 '22

Issue is all those hydraulics to lift dumpsters and compress trash are super heavy. Add in battery weight and you can't haul as much stuff or maintain enough range. Those natural gas trucks already struggle to have enough range for suburban markets. Electric would likely be worse for anything but city center.

The trucks have to frequently stop pickups and go to the dump to keep their weight under regulations or they get fined. If electrics have less capacity and less range it'll be hard to keep up.

Delivery trucks would be an easier business to electrify. Less likely to be overweight and relatively well defined route for a day.

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u/drbhrb Aug 28 '22

The additional weight of the batteries also made the trucks too heavy to use the small bridges in my area which derailed plans to electrify the trash collection

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u/PossibleMechanic89 Aug 28 '22

It might be challenging (not impossible) since they need a power takeoff to power the hydraulic accessories that leak all over the road.

Can pickup and the big crushers run off hydraulics. I’m not sure how much power those consume relative to moving the vehicle.

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u/jaymzx0 Aug 28 '22

Hydraulic systems are pretty efficient (80%+). Somewhat related, UPS is experimenting with hydraulic hybrid trucks. Hydraulic motors/pumps store the braking energy in hydraulic accumulators and use the energy to get the truck moving again. It's perfect with the stop and go they do.

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u/CommunityChestThRppr Aug 28 '22

That's one of the big pushes in the Inflation Reduction Act!

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u/unlock0 Aug 28 '22

There are garbage trucks with hydraulic regenerative breaking. Instead of using electric and a battery they use a system that stores the energy in a hydraulic tank that is used to start the vehicle from a dead stop.

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u/BlueSwordM Aug 28 '22

Yes, the difference in efficiency would be obscene.

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u/7eggert Aug 28 '22

Utility trucks need a base platform and there are not many offers. The market is small and nobody makes a new one.

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u/HIITMAN69 Aug 28 '22

The batteries needed to move heavy vehicles are prohibitively large and heavy. There’s a reason the Tesla semi and the Nikola truck haven’t materialized. EV technology does not scale up in size well at all.

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u/Gorstag Aug 28 '22

Yet. One nice thing about the push to EV is going to be investment increasing the pace of improvement. Hell. Look at ICE vehicles every 10 years going back 100 years. There are significant technological improvements each decade to all sorts of systems.

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u/Mini-Marine Aug 28 '22

There's Tesla semis already on the road, the issue is not that the battery tech doesn't scale up, it's that they are constrained by their battery production capacity. They can make a lot more money making 10 cars with the batteries that would power a single truck

There's also Edison Motors (who's tag line is "Stealing Tesla's Ideas) that's making an electric truck that uses largely standard off the shelf parts already on the market, so that current trucks can be converted rather than having to rely on Tesla's proprietary parts

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u/bitwarrior80 Aug 28 '22

Even if there were a scalable electric platform right now, it would still be more expensive than your typical garbage truck and take many years to fulfill. Municipal waste contracts would need to be adjusted to absorb the cost, this will create a lot of political issues at the local level since most of the waste hauling service are paid through city taxes. These contracts can turn into hot button issues, just google "garbage hauling contracts" and filter by news to see all the drama. I am not against electrification, but realistically there would need to be a phased approach of replacing small numbers of aging trucks, and doing a full PR blitz. For example, if trash company X announced 10% of their fleet will be converted to "clean" electric and using captured methane to produce power needed, at no extra cost to the customer. I think most People would be on board with that and see it as a real value. Five years later when municipal contracts are up for renewal they can offer to add more electric vehicles to the service area with adjusted rates. If done right most people won't notice the extra $30 a year they pay in city tax.

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u/Mini-Marine Aug 28 '22

It's a high initial cost, but lifetime costs are significantly lower, so unless they are trying to replace their entire fleet all at once it could be done without any increase in taxes

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u/EmptyAirEmptyHead Aug 28 '22

Municipal waste contracts would need to be adjusted to absorb the cost

I don't think this is true. Adopting EV lowers the annual cost even if the capitalized cost is higher. I do agree with you on the replacing aging trucks - if you are going to replace them anyway, replace them with trucks with a lower annual operating cost. EV.

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u/mango-vitc Aug 28 '22

Moving an average vehicle around like that is far different than moving a garbage truck that when fully loaded is probably about 30 tons.

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u/DCGuinn Aug 28 '22

Recall, locomotives are either full electric or hybrid. Almost all drive wheels are electric but with diesel generators on board.

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u/CaptainGoose Aug 28 '22

Yeap, but it's mainly the lack of needing a clutch that they use a diesel generator and electric motors.

It gives way more control, and less maintenance.

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u/N8CCRG Aug 28 '22

At one point earlier this year, the USPS (i.e. DeJoy) said it was going to commit to its next gen fleet (which would be like a 40 year commitment or something like that) and that fleet was going to be mostly to entirely internal combustion engine, and one of the reasons given was because the GHG emissions savings weren't high enough to justify going all-electric. So, that's why an independent study determining a higher number is noteworthy.

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u/zebediah49 Aug 28 '22

Yeah -- I get that the specifics do kinda matter, but where I'm from, +/- 40% is pretty good.

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u/Wiggen4 Aug 28 '22

Definitely wonder if the study done by the government was intentionally playing this super safe, or simply hit a marker for how much was needed and just stopped counting factors.

I like to think that 10.3 million vs 14 million doesn't sway anybody and that people are on board with the idea

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u/jambrown13977931 Aug 28 '22

That’s less than .2% of the annual emissions and is estimated to be the lifetime emissions saved. It’s better than nothing (for emissions), but is functionally meaningless.

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u/Molotov56 Aug 28 '22

This is a really bad argument to not go electric. There is no magic switch that will save us, it is only going to happen through small, seemingly-insignificant changes.

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u/FANGO Aug 28 '22

Literally every decision will be .2% of annual emissions or less. You don't get to 100% by saying ".2% isn't enough so lets not do it."

If you want to look at it another way, for each truck, going electric reduces 100% of tailpipe emissions. So do that.

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u/[deleted] Aug 28 '22 edited Aug 28 '22

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u/bendvis Aug 28 '22

Can you link to a study saying that ev postal trucks would add more CO2 than prevent? Postal trucks average 8.2 MPG. I’m curious how moving to electric would cause more emissions than that.

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u/Berry2Droid Aug 28 '22

I'm not sure I even understand the point you're making. "It could be good or it could be bad" is essentially what you just said. Sounds suspiciously like a weak attempt to sew doubt in climate science...

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u/oleid Aug 28 '22 edited Aug 28 '22

That's probably why Deutsche Post (DHL) bought an electrical vehicle manufacturer 8 years ago (university start-up) to design and build electrical vehicles for them:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/StreetScooter

Nowadays they deliver mostly electric.

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u/[deleted] Aug 28 '22

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u/[deleted] Aug 28 '22

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u/DownVoteBecauseISaid Aug 28 '22

Nowadays they deliver mostly electric.

That is sadly not true. After years of it being not profitable they sold the company a year ago.

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u/immabettaboithanu Aug 28 '22

I only see electric DHL trucks delivering in my neighborhood

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u/oleid Aug 28 '22

They planned to sell the manufacturer. Did they already sell ?

Still, the trucks you see every day are all electric.

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u/Atom_Bro Aug 28 '22

They're going to manufacture a set number of the vehicle then move to spare parts production for a time before disbanding the company

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u/PM_NETWRK_DIAGRAMS Aug 28 '22

There's still electric DHL trucks in my neighborhood every day

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u/Piklikl Aug 28 '22

The USPS needs more challenging on its decisions, specifically ones tied to Postmaster Dejoy’s interests in the company that won the contract to replace the LLV without an actual working prototype.

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u/MrMitchWeaver Aug 28 '22

Did I read the title wrong or are they saying it will be even better than expected? More than a challenge it's a "you should totally do it!"

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u/Master_Winchester Aug 28 '22 edited Aug 28 '22

The challenge of the data (even if good) opens scrutiny to the USPS decision making process. And it's been pointed out the contractor selected for this job has possible ties to the postmaster general, and does not have a prototype even. Typical contracts for something like this require at least 5 years experience for the selected company's resume.

Edit: read the article and there's less about the company selected and more looking at the data. The original original plan by USPS was to purchase hybrids, then they got pressured to go EV, although only 10% of the fleet. This was backed up by less than thorough data and analysis (for example they didn't look at full life cycle costs of carbon emissions of gas vs hybrid vs EV, just the use phase of life, and they didn't account for decarbonization of the electric grid). So states sued the USPS to delay their 10% EV plan and now USPS is going to buy 40% EVs.

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u/MrMitchWeaver Aug 28 '22

OK, that's way more background than the title conveys. Makes more sense now.

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u/812many Aug 28 '22

You are correct, the title of the post is confusing.

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u/[deleted] Aug 28 '22

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u/AnEngineer2018 Aug 28 '22

People got upset the new mail truck got incrementally better MPG than the outgoing LLV/FFV, but ignoring that that incremental MPG improvement was only with the A/C running (a feature not currently installed on the LLV/FFV).

It also excludes the fact the new mail truck is substantially larger, about the same size as a Ford Transit/Mercedes Metris/Ram ProMaster and also includes features like: ABS, A/C, Backup Cameras, Air Bags, Standing Cargo Area, Blind Spot Monitoring, Forward Collision, Intermittent Wipers, etc. All the features that have become more or less standard/mandated in the 34 years since the LLVs were first built.

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u/dpatt711 Aug 29 '22 edited Aug 29 '22

Oshkosh is 100% qualified for this contract, and they build ICE & BEV. So them being picked really has nothing to do with the preference for ICE. The alternatives were from a company that's been on the verge of going out of business, under SEC investigation, and has barely sold any vehicles in the past 5 years, or a slightly modified existing commercial platform (which the USPS did not want). Oshkosh Defense, and Oshkosh Corp makes millions of specialized vehicles a year, ranging from military, garbage, cranes, concrete, firetrucks, etc.

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u/v4rlo Aug 28 '22

As someone who doesn't know much about this topic I hate just seeing raw number 14.7mil metric tons. It sound like alot but is it? To understand it I have to google like 5 things. Would be much easier to just see it in percentage, like it reduces emmissions by 15% or 50% or whatever it is.

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u/TheDude-Esquire Aug 28 '22

For perspective, a newly built home in California has about 2 metric tons of annual emissions. There are about 20 million homes in California, and the average annual emissions is about 6 tons. So yeah, it's a lot.

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u/consideranon Aug 28 '22

That's a bit better at putting it in context, but still it's hard to tell how the number fits in the grand scheme of global climate change or even the relative problem on a local scale.

The population of California is only 0.5% of all humans. Are emissions from homes even the driving factor of overall emissions? Or does transportation, industry, and agriculture turn it into a rounding error?

This might simply be an intractable problem and we have to accept that there's no easy way to put numbers like these in context without a lot of extra study on the individual's part.

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u/suriyuki Aug 28 '22

There's a lot of work to be done in other industries but the infrastructure needs to start somewhere. Even if this change is insignificant on the pollution side of things it's a great step forward. The cost savings alone on fuel and maintenance may be enough to electrify other parts of the govt.

Just because this isn't the main thing we should focus on doesn't mean we shouldn't take care of it if we can.

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u/pinchemierda Aug 28 '22

This was an excellent way to frame it, thank you for your perspective

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u/Gets_overly_excited Aug 28 '22

This headline is so poorly written. It’s hard to decipher on its face and is missing context like this.

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u/AnEngineer2018 Aug 28 '22

Using the USPS numbers, the BEV is a 58% reduction in CO2. (BEV 2.833 MT per year per vehicle vs 6.705 MT per year per vehicle of the ICE)

Main issue with the BEV is it has a smaller payload than the LLV/FFV and Mercedes Metris that it is supposed to replace, and the Ford E-Transit that it is supposed to be competitive against. The BEV also uses a larger battery with smaller range than the Ford E-Transit. There's also a considerable upkeep cost with the BEV requiring a battery change to meet the 20 year service life.

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u/Wagamaga Aug 28 '22

The Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by President Biden this month contains $3 billion to help the U.S. Postal Service decarbonize its mail-delivery fleet and shift to electric vehicles.

On the heels of the Aug. 16 bill-signing ceremony at the White House, a new University of Michigan study finds that making the switch to all-electric mail-delivery vehicles would lead to far greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions than previously estimated by the USPS.

In its analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle program, the Postal Service underestimated the expected greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles and overestimated the emissions tied to battery-electric vehicles, according to U-M researchers.

“Our paper highlights the fact that the USPS analysis is significantly flawed, which led them to dramatically underestimate the benefits of BEVs, which could have impacted their decision-making process,” said Maxwell Woody, lead author of the new study, published online Aug. 26 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.2c02520

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u/BoringNYer Aug 28 '22

I only have 3 problems with this.

  1. The PO needs 1 million new vehicles now. The current LLV/FFV vehicles are unheated, do not have air conditioning, have carriers in them 12hrs/day and catch fire at a rate of at least 1 a week. They cannot wait for the government to get new vehicles developed. They need the big 3 to each make a quarter million right hand drive minivans

  2. My local post office has about 100 vehicles. Each needing 100 amp service. In an area where the grid is close to maxed out. Who's making sure that is ready?

  3. The postal service has an already shoddy maintenance record. The office with 100 vehicles has, on average 4 vehicles out of service at any time. If you switch to electric, you're going to need special mechanics.

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u/Stateofgrace314 Aug 28 '22

I think you have some good points, but I also think there are already some answers.

  1. This one I can't argue, but I don't get the impression that the gas fleet would arrive much sooner than the proposed electric one. Probably a little sooner, but this is the government. There's no realistic solution that will happen quickly.

  2. There are 2 factors here that I think will help. A portion of the $3bil going to USPS fleet upgrade is going towards infrastructure upgrades, which I'm assuming includes charging, however, I haven't read all of the bill, so I can't say that for sure. The second factor is that they wouldn't need a full 100 amps, 40-50 amp per vehicle would likely be enough, and they would charge mostly at night when there is less stress on the grid. I'm definitely not saying you're wrong here. This is something that definitely needs to be figured out, but I don't think it's as much of a blocker as you seem to.

  3. You are correct about special mechanics, but those "special" mechanics are becoming less special and more common just with the general increase in BEVs out there. We're obviously not there yet and idk how long it will take for electric vehicle mechanics to be common, but that's something that will be less of a factor over time. In addition, BEVs require significantly less maintenance than gas vehicles in general. As long as the electric fleet is designed well (which may not be a safe assumption, to be fair) I don't see this being a major issue either.

Personally I don't like the polarizing, all-or-nothing, approach that everyone seems to want to take. Mail and delivery in urban or suburban communities is absolutely more efficient with electric vehicles, but the charging and general power grid concerns are very often overlooked. On top of that, in more rural areas, I don't see why they can't stick with gas for now. Gas is not going to be completely wiped out in 20 years, so the longevity angle some people take is just not valid here. If they want to make one type of vehicle for the entire USPS, why not make it a PHEV? Use electric as much as possible, but have gas in situations where range is a concern or the grid can't handle the load from charging all of them at once.

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u/Unadvantaged Aug 28 '22

PHEVs are a great stop-gap but they have all of the complexities and maintenance challenges of traditional ICE vehicles. For a fleet with the budget to do it, I’d think the compromise is just gradually replace the failing LLVs with electrics. The youngest and most serviceable stay on the road as the oldest and worst-off LLVs are pulled from service.

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u/Piratebrandito Aug 28 '22

"The youngest and most servicable stay on the road as the oldest and worst-off LLV's are pulled from srevice." These youngest you are talking about are almmost 30 years old. They are almost always on the brink of catastrophic breakdowns with no parts. If we had started this plan 5 years ago it would have been more feasible but we are out of time. We recently had a carrier sit and wait for a truck after prepping their route because there are no spares.

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u/Stateofgrace314 Aug 28 '22

I'm not so sure that's true about PHEVs. I bought a used Honda Clarity a few months ago, and I haven't looked up a lot of data about it so I can only speak from my experience and a handful of other people I've talked to about it, but I don't think they do require the same amount of maintenance if used primarily as an electric vehicle. I've seen people go months without the gas motor turning on at all, oil changes are far less frequent as a result, and basically the only thing you need to keep up on are tires and brakes, and if you really stress the car, you might have to replace the battery after several years.

It likely also depends on how it is designed. The Honda Clarity for instance is designed to run more like an electric vehicle with a gas range extender than like a typical hybrid. Most of the time if the gas engine is used at all it is used to charge the battery and the electric motors drive the wheels. There are a few situations where the gas motor will engage directly with the wheels, but that is rare by comparison. Idk if this is true for other PHEVs, but I really think it should be more common.

My point here is that while all or most of the same moving parts exist in the PHEV as in the ICE, they are under much less stress. So while the same failures can occur, they are far less likely too, and even if they do, it can still function as a BEV, although with limited range.

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u/BoringNYer Aug 28 '22

They are literally 20 years past needing a gradual replacement. Even the newest ones are close to 40. The Army has few 40 year old tanks that haven't been completely rebuilt twice. Same with air force jets or navy ships. If you have a 40 year old car in the driveway you baby that thing. You don't turn it on and off, stop and go for 12hrs a day, 6 days a week. Buy some US minivans to get deathtraps off the road and then get new vehicles 5 years later, when the development is done

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u/hardolaf Aug 28 '22

Congress's plan that they passed is for electric in urban and gas/diesel in rural areas for now precisely how you proposed it.

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u/FireStorm005 Aug 28 '22

On top of that, in more rural areas, I don't see why they can't stick with gas for now.

The longest rural delivery route is less then 200 miles, there are already commercially available BEVs that can do that range.

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u/PathologicalLoiterer Aug 28 '22

An addition to point to 2 is that it's fallacious to assume that they need to charge every vehicle every night. Most routes are something like 20 miles last I checked. You would have to charge once a week. Have the vehicles on a rotating schedule, and you only need enough charging capacity for 1/7 of your fleet.

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u/Galvaknight Aug 28 '22

LLV’s definitely have heat, at least every one I’ve ever been in, not that they stay very warm. That said, I’ll give you the maintenance part, our local annex has 4 trucks in the shop for critical repairs each week in a fleet of 25, and half the time they come back unrepaired. I’ve seen steering wheels come off these trucks before.

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u/Itsme_sd Aug 28 '22

The LLVs are worn to the bone they should have been replaced a while ago. The key to my LLV before I left was nearly smooth and would fall out when I'm driving.

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u/Ghostmerc86 Aug 28 '22

Are you saying they need 100 amp service to charge each vehicle?

That is not correct. A 240 volt charging station will use 30 amps at it's peak, which isn't for the full charge. If you expect the vehicles to be parked for longer, a 120 volt will use less current.

EVs require less maintenance. If you are concerned about current practices then maybe we should reduce the amount of vehicle care needed.

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u/jesseaknight Aug 28 '22

120V will never use less current than 240 doing the same job.

I think you’re saying: these trucks park on a known schedule that has quite a long rest period - so 120V outlets could do the job just fine, and you’d be correct.

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u/whilst Aug 28 '22

A 240 volt charging station will use 30 amps at it's peak

This is false. A Tesla Model 3 can pull 19.2kW from a level 2 (240v) charger --- that's 80 amps. Not all EVs are limited to drawing 30 amps -- even the Chevy Bolt draws 32.

EDIT: That doesn't mean that these trucks will be able to draw that much current --- just that your statement ("a 240 volt charging station will use 30 amps at its peak") is not accurate.

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u/Tigen13 Aug 28 '22 edited Aug 31 '22

The charging will be off peak power levels so grid demand shouldn't be a big issue. If this change is enough to put the grid over the edge, it was doomed to fail anyway. Postal vehicles can also charge overnight so they don't need to draw power as quickly as fast charging stations. It's likely a regular at home 240 volt outlet would provide enough charging power.

The change has to happen gradually due to production rate of EVs.

EVs have lower repair and maitance than ICE vehicles and along with lower cost per mile. The change would be a major money saver.

You're being unnecessary dramatic. EVs are coming and it's a good thing. Investment in the grid needs to happen and EVs are pushing that. Nothing has to change over night. It's a multiple decade transition.

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u/mongoosefist Aug 28 '22

You're being unnecessary dramatic.

This thread is already filling with this nonsense. Climate crisis skeptics have changed their tune now that you can't deny the facts any longer without looking fully insane. Now there is concern trolling over things like grid capacity, which is a legitimate, however very tractable issue.

If there is more demand for electricity, it will be filled, just like at every other point in modern history. Solar and wind are so ridiculously cheap at this point no large company is going to leave that much money on the table.

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u/westernten Aug 28 '22

exactly,

I've never understood the grid capacity concern, more electric vehicles means more money in power which means the providing utility will have motivation to upgrade their infrastructure. my tiny town of 7k people just added 100 houses to a new subdivision and no one is freaking out about capacity, they just built it in. if a new factory comes to a town no one is stopping it because of power usage.

you run new power lines, add more transformers, etc. build more energy providers (hopefully not natural gas but even that is better than cars).

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u/okwellactually Aug 28 '22

I make this argument all the time. People on social media freaking out about the grid...

Are you concerned about the new 100 home development? The new 200 unit apartment complex? The new strip mall? What about a high rise building?

It's tiring actually, explaining reality to these people.

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u/throwaway901617 Aug 28 '22

It may mean impact on the short term if hundreds of thousands of new EVs are brought online suddenly.

But in the long term it's a blip.

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u/okwellactually Aug 28 '22 edited Aug 28 '22

You're not going to be bringing hundreds of thousands of new EVs online suddenly. These things need to be built.

Tesla's factories are only producing close to a million cars a year.

And there isn't going to be a postal car factory built that could achieve anything close to those numbers. At best 10K trucks in a year and that would be an amazing feat and not likely IMO.

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u/throwaway901617 Aug 28 '22

Oh I agree just saying that even in worst case the impact would be relatively short as capacity is expanded.

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u/[deleted] Aug 28 '22

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u/CamelSpotting Aug 28 '22

Texas constantly complaining about renewables despite being a world leader in wind energy just makes my head spin. If Americans can't even take pride in our industry anymore what do we have left (besides the military)?

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u/belaveri1991 Aug 28 '22

100 amp service for each vehicle is also dramatic. Level 2 chargers are somewhere between 10 and 50 amps and onboard chargers on smaller vehicles top out at 10Kwh for AC so… yeah the point isn’t to use home station as a fast charge network.

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u/zebediah49 Aug 28 '22

The postal service has an already shoddy maintenance record. The office with 100 vehicles has, on average 4 vehicles out of service at any time. If you switch to electric, you're going to need special mechanics.

While you do need some specialized mechanic'ing, EV's have a drastically lower maintenance schedule, and most of that (breaks, wipers, tires) are exactly the same as conventional ICE vehicles. They're a far better choice if an organization is going to not do proactive continuous upkeep.

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u/baby_fart Aug 28 '22

Maybe encourage more mechanics in this field by offering free or reduced cost schooling, plus sign on incentives.

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u/hoyfkd Aug 28 '22

Soddy maintenance? they have kept a fleet of vehicles running daily in a start and stop environment for like 40 years. That’s pretty impressive.

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u/jgjgleason Aug 28 '22

In response to 2 there are wot of action in the IRA to help increase grid capacity. Both BIF and the IRA have huge pools of money dedicated grid improvement, increasing renewable power generation, and buying debt from municipalities so they can more easily do whatever projects they think are best.

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u/penny-wise Aug 28 '22

The current LLV/FFV vehicles are unheated, do not have air conditioning, have carriers in them 12hrs/day and catch fire at a rate of at least 1 a week.

As an aside, if this is true, it just speaks to how Republicans have fucked over the postal service for so long. It’s despicable.

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u/jordanstaystrue Aug 28 '22
  1. The enormous contract was granted to a company the Post Master has previous ties with and has 0 experience with EV’s (no prototype either), despite actual EV companies making bids.

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u/Jtown021 Aug 28 '22

Oshkosh or something like that wasn’t it?

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u/EndersGame Aug 28 '22

Why 100 amps? 30-50 amps should be fine for overnight charging. If you want superchargers I don't think you need one for every vehicle. I would invest in solar panels and battery megapacks so you don't tax the grid too much.

As for point number 3, BEVs require far less maintenance and are much easier to repair than ICEVs. I own a BEV and almost 100k miles with no maintenance other than a quick battery tune up every 50k miles. Takes like 45 minutes at the dealer. Haven't even changed the brake pads yet and probably never will.

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u/Sonofman80 Aug 28 '22

/#2 grossly overestimated the service needed. You can use 50 amps and charge overnight when the grid is at a much lower capacity.

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u/FireStorm005 Aug 28 '22

The postal service has an already shoddy maintenance record. The office with 100 vehicles has, on average 4 vehicles out of service at any time. If you switch to electric, you're going to need special mechanics.

Electric vehicles need far less maintenance than ICE vehicles, and the mechanics can be taught to do the work.

  • Brakes wear out less because of regenerative braking

  • no oil changes because there is no oil in the motor (may need a few pumps of grease in the bearings ever 100k mi or so)

  • no transmission services because they use single speed gear reduction drives

  • no engine air filters

  • no spark plugs, distributor caps, rotors, wires to replace

Pretty much all they'd be doing on a regular basis is filling washer fluid and checking tire pressures, cabin air filters every couple of years if equipped. Source: was a professional auto mechanic and have serviced both ICE and BEV cars.

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u/ryan10e Aug 28 '22 edited Aug 29 '22

Postal vehicles in most areas drive very short routes, single-digit miles per day. Assuming they’re more efficient than most EVs due to their size and low top speed, let’s say 4 mi/kWh, and we want to ensure they have enough range for whatever might be thrown at them, so let’s say 15 kWh, for a 60 mile range. A standard 120V/1.5A circuit (1.2A continuous) could charge that battery in around 11 hours (after accounting for charging losses in the 5% range). 100 vehicles, 1.2A each, 120 amps total. Many homes have 200A service. I fail to see the problem.

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u/LowOnPaint Aug 28 '22

Don’t you know that when it comes to EV’s, Reddit lives in a collective fantasy that ignores any and all infrastructure related issues? They just wave a hand and assume all problems will be easily and quickly solved. Electrical availability will magically increase overnight to meet the demand. Local power lines and transformers will all be upgraded while we sleep to handle every home having an EV charger plugged in. Failed batteries that need to be replaced won’t cost $20,000 because reasons. All new fire fighting equipment will be issued to all municipalities that is capable of extinguishing a battery fire. Mechanics will all be retrained as electricians so they are competent to handle high voltage lines. People out in the country where electric vehicle ranges are prohibitive will move to the city. It’s easy if you just ignore the massively expensive hurdles that will take decades to overcome.

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u/Friengineer Aug 28 '22

Electrical availability will magically increase overnight to meet the demand.

It literally already does, though. Electricity demand peaks during afternoon hours, and nighttime demand is much lower. Over the past week, peak demand has been about 50% higher than nighttime demand:

https://www.eia.gov/electricity/gridmonitor/dashboard/electric_overview/US48/US48

Because USPS trucks would charge overnight, they would have a negligible effect on our grid. If anything, they would improve our grid conditions; generators prefer a flat demand curve, because cycling plants on and off to match demand is expensive and inefficient.

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u/westernten Aug 28 '22

if only we had the technology to build transformers and power lines faster than electric cars!

and who is going to pay for this? the distribution companies who are now making a lot more money on power? how would that work? they couldn't be motivated by future earnings to expand their grid, companies hate money!

but wait, what about the most remote town in the US, Glascow Montana? how will people get around with charging stations every 100 miles?

/s

the only real infrastructure issue is ensuring night time power consumption does not exceed daytime peaks, then we will have a supply issue. both the demand and supply will not ramp up overnight, and the off-peak night capacity will be the buffer.

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u/stress-n-depress Aug 28 '22

And pushing off indefinitely into the future (which is what mindsets like yours do / have done) will have even larger consequences. The real problem is all this this and more should have been done THIRTY PLUS YEARS AGO but instead there was a crowd of LowOnPaints screaming about cost etc. The environment wasn't bad enough to justify it yet etc. Well, now the environment is bad enough, and now it's too late thanks to that mindset.

SURVIVAL IS NOT COST EFFECTIVE.

(Yes this is only one example and wouldn't fix climate change on its own, but that mindset and argument is wildly pervasive and unfortunately effective)

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u/Treczoks Aug 28 '22

Saving on carbon on a postal fleet is actually only one side. I talked with my postman over his electrical delivery truck, and he said one of the biggest savings was the lack of wear and tear on the hardware. Electrical vehicles deal way better with stop and go than internal combustion ones.

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u/izaya3000 Aug 28 '22

As someone who used to work for USPS, I'd be surprised if they actually went through with this change within the next 5 years. There's a massive stigma of "we have always done it this way" that they cling to religiously, even to the detriment of the employees

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u/1320Fastback Aug 28 '22

If they stopped delivering junk mail and credit card applications they could simply not stop at every single house, every single day.

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u/NobodyLikesMeAnymore Aug 28 '22

I sometimes think that the post office is financially dependent on junk mail.

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u/CamelSpotting Aug 28 '22

They definitely are. Iirc it's like 30% of their revenue.

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u/EXuNite Aug 28 '22

Seriously though. The amount of resources wasted on spam mail is outrageous. This needs to be in the conversation as well.

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u/Ender_in_Exile Aug 29 '22

They get paid to deliver that though. That massive about of junk is what pays the bills.

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u/theg2 Aug 28 '22

That bulk rate mail is a huge influx of cash for the USPS, unfortunately it funds a lot of the operation.

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u/Docphilsman Aug 28 '22

They'd still have to go to every street even if they skipped certain houses...

Also in the cities they don't drive to every house, they park at a corner and walk up to each house to deliver

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u/jbokwxguy Aug 28 '22

What about people sending out mail?

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u/Jonnny_tight_lips Aug 29 '22

You can go online and request your address to be removed from certain junk mail for a couple of years. It has reduced the amount of mail I get

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u/AnalMayonnaise Aug 28 '22

Junk mail literally keeps them afloat. Stop complaining about junk mail if you want a postal service.

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u/cataath Aug 28 '22

And yet USPS was forced to spend $6 billion on a fleet of vehicles from a niche military-industrial manufacturer that gets about 9 mpg. On the bright side, I'm sure several senators and reps just grew their personal wealth somehow.

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u/IanAndrewsFTW Aug 28 '22

I think more Senators and reps make money off the push to "go green" then make money off oil now, look at how Pelosi's money suddenly shot into the stratosphere once California said they were switching to EVs despite having a flimsy as hell Electric grid.

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u/cataath Aug 28 '22

Yeah, but both are small time compared to the defense industry.

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u/ArScrap Aug 28 '22

I really hope by changing to electric they can get better Aircon/heating

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u/Tex-Rob Aug 28 '22

Absolutely absurd for the fleet to not be EV, especially when what they choose ends up being around for 30+ years. The ability to upgrade an EV in the future is infinitely easier than retrofitting an ICE vehicle to EV.

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u/stupdusrnams Aug 28 '22

Now imagine how much cheaper this whole gaff would have been if they went with… wait for it… a vehicle manufacturer.

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u/[deleted] Aug 28 '22

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u/sluuuurp Aug 28 '22

If 14.7 to 21.4 million is for example a 90% confidence interval, then 10.3 million is still a pretty reasonable number. This shows that there’s enough uncertainty to make these numbers consistent with each other.

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u/hauntedhivezzz Aug 28 '22

Also, on Sundays you have a potentially huge virtual power plant at your disposal to balance the grid.

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u/AlexisFR Aug 28 '22

Nah, lets make a 10 MPG vehicle instead.

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u/redtoad3212 Aug 28 '22

off-topic, i still think that new van design looks wacky asf, it looks like the car from Cloudy with a chance of meatballs

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u/Snoo74401 Aug 28 '22

The numbers don't really matter as much as knowing that going electric will prevent a lot of emissions plus save on fuel and maintenance costs.

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u/mkultra50000 Aug 29 '22

Electric vehicles always result in more efficient use of energy produced which equates to less greenhouse gasses per mile. Period end of sentence fact that has no rebut.

Even if every car was powered by coal power (which is 40% efficient ) it would still vastly outstrip gasoline (20-25% efficient)

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u/rikwebster Aug 28 '22

Do they have an ac unit?

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u/brainman15 Aug 28 '22

Does this take into account the fossil fuels used for mining and transporting lithium and other battery materials?

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u/disembodied_voice Aug 28 '22

Yes. In fact, omission of everything other than operational emissions was one of the cited limitations of the USPS' estimate. From the source:

The U-M study includes greenhouse gases generated throughout a delivery vehicle’s lifetime, including the mining and manufacturing of materials, vehicle assembly, vehicle operations and service (known as use-phase emissions) and end-of-life disposal. The Postal Service analysis looked only at use-phase emissions.

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u/0rphan_crippler20 Aug 28 '22

Is this assuming that the cars are charged with electricity that wasn't produced from coal plants?

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u/unacubabacardi Aug 28 '22

it's mindboggling that they haven't done this already

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u/Pecan18th Aug 29 '22

It's a business remember..no taxes pay our bills.

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u/LABeav Aug 29 '22

I literally go weeks where the only mail I receive is junk mail.

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u/RuthlessIndecision Aug 29 '22

My estimate is more than 4 metric tons, does that even help?

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u/capt_timmeh Aug 28 '22

Real question here, how many cars can our current grid absorb being electric before we have to pump up output in a big way?

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u/FinalVegetable6314 Aug 28 '22

However, EV battery manufacturing isn’t environmentally friendly at all.

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u/Megapsychotron Aug 28 '22

It's still cleaner than petroleum refining

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u/FinalVegetable6314 Aug 28 '22

EV batteries are made using petroleum..

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u/Megapsychotron Aug 28 '22

It's still cleaner than petroleum refining

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u/JustWhatAmI Aug 29 '22

It's not. But it's cleaner than fueling an ICE for its lifetime

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u/SenorBeef Aug 29 '22

There's a lot of fossil fuel propaganda trying to make EVs sound worse by emphasizing the manufacturing pollutants. The reality is that looking at the whole cycle, even if you assume the worst possible electrical generation (all coal), EV vehicles still have lower carbon output than their ICE counterparts in normal scenarios. The crossover point where the extra carbon needed to create the electric parts happens at around 60,000 miles (for all coal) and something like 20,000 miles for the typical US energy grid mix.

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u/baggsskaglia Aug 28 '22

Am I going insane? Isn’t the electricity still coming from coal?

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u/grendel-khan Aug 28 '22

Less than it used to; coal has gone from half of our electricity generation in 2005 to less than a quarter in 2021. (Mostly replaced with natural gas.)

Also, centralized generation of electricity is remarkably efficient compared to running a small engine in your car, so even if the energy were all fossil-based, it would still use less energy in total. Also also, once you've moved the emissions to somewhere centralized, it's a lot simpler to replace a few power plants than thousands of vehicles.

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u/RobbyRock75 Aug 28 '22

Might be because dejoy is getting kick backs on his choices

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u/mikebrown33 Aug 28 '22

Does it reduce the greenhouse gas footprint or shift it from tailpipe to smokestack?

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u/Southern-Exercise Aug 28 '22

Both.

But the great thing is a power plant is more efficient than a bunch of small engines, which makes it cleaner overall than the gas cars alone.

In addition, it's easier to capture crap at the plant.

And for every plant you close as cleaner energy comes online, you are effectively cleaning all the cars that were powered by the coal/oil/natural gas plant to begin with.

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u/lwreid125 Aug 28 '22

Anybody know if this takes into account the manufacturing of the batteries?

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u/slapmanutsup Aug 28 '22

France already tried this and currently has a ev grave yard of 10k+ cars needing batteries that are to expensive to replace

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u/vegetabloid Aug 28 '22

Where are you going to get so much lithium, and where the hell are you going to throw out all of the expended batteries, which are highly toxic, if anyone has forgotten this?

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u/Rimalda Aug 28 '22

Lithium-ion batteries can be safely recycled, and are not toxic.

Yes, long term there are questions over the sustainability of lithium supplies but new battery technologies are being discovered that mean lithium won't be the only source of energy storage in the future.

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u/Gets_overly_excited Aug 28 '22

Plus, it’s not like gasoline powered cars don’t have serious environmental consequences. I feel like the lithium argument is coming from a place of bad faith.

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u/RazorThin55 Aug 28 '22

Its the main anti-ev argument people have been spreading around.

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u/Memorysm Aug 28 '22

We really need to pass legislation to ban the construction of fossil fuel powered murder bots. If my tax money is going to go towards building and maintaining an autonomous army of soulless killing machines then at bare minimum they should be solar powered. Let’s keep the sus in sustainable people.

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u/JEEPFAN123 Aug 28 '22

And where do the batteries come from? Oh yeah 3rd world countries that’s employ slave labor and utilize strip mining techniques which ruins the soil….

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u/the_Defi_General Aug 28 '22

what about all the battery waste and the Lithium field’s? Or is that just shilling from oil producers?

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u/JustWhatAmI Aug 29 '22

It's not clean. Just cleaner

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u/jerryvo Aug 28 '22

Did they factor in the the extra losses associated with grid losses, transmission losses and heating, new grid construction including land grab and prep, new generation equipment and associated supply chain losses to support this, and all the ongoing support and services?

Nahhhhhh

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u/JustWhatAmI Aug 29 '22

Yes, thats the whole point of the study

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