• Jan 25, 2010
Chrysler U.S. Postal Service Minivan - Click above for high-res gallery

Old news: that the USPS has used electric vehicles (EVs) since at least 1899.
Newer news: that Congressman Jose Serrano introduced a bill – called the American Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Act or "e-Drive" (H.R. 4399) last December for the USPS to use a fleet of 20,000 electric delivery vans and to get a network of 24,000 charging stations (with more to come). There is a summary of the bill here (PDF).
Newest news: there are things being done behind the scenes to push EVs into the fleet sooner rather than later.

This week, during the Washington Auto Show, EV advocates are holding meetings with Congressional staffers about this very issue. The e-Drive bill just got a new website, which gives people who aren't in D.C. a way to support the bill and to contact their Representatives and Senators to voice that support.

We haven't heard much about the all-electric USPS minivan that Chrysler displayed last Earth Day recently, but that doesn't mean that the Postal Service is standing still. AC Propulsion and a company called AutoPort will be converting a traditional USPS Grumman LLV, the "long live vehicle" that is the standard mail truck used around the country, to electric drive. The test vehicle will use AC Propulsion's AC-150 drive system and have a range of up to 300 miles at 60 mph.



[Source: CalCars, Autopia]


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  • 30 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      neptronix -- check out the Case Studies page at the UK website of Smith EV at http://www.smithelectricvehicles.com for numerous examples of delivery fleets that already make routine use of electric vans. Back-to-base depot-based delivery fleets are ideally suited top pure EVs. Two of the UK's biggest food supermarket groups - Tesco, and Sainsburys, use them. Sainsburys have been running 20 of the (Ford-based) Smith Edison around London for 18 months and recently ordered 51 more. Parcels delivery firm TNT have so far bought 150 of the bigger 7.5ton Smith Newton truck, which they operate from 23 depots across England, Scotland and Holland.
      • 4 Years Ago
      USPS is the perfect application for EV technology. Slow. Stop & go travel. Daily routes of less than 50 miles. Just perfect for EVs. However, I don't think those big heavy Chrysler vans are the best bodies . . . but I guess it will work.

      As far as batteries, I suspect (overpriced) A123 batteries. I believe they have a deal with Chrysler.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Those current little vans are both really inefficient and fairly powerful.
      They have an oldschool 2.2/2.5 80's domestic motor ( i think the 2.5 is the iron duke ) coupled to a tranny that's geared for hauling... 16/18mpg, pretty pathetic.

      My biggest question is, where are we gonna get the money to do this.. borrow another trillion gazillion from China?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well, it's borrow the money from China or let us all send a good portion of our paychecks to the oil barons until their oil runs out, so pick your poison.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Is there any large scale, long term lithium field test you can point me to?
        Yeah, i didn't think so.

        Also, i forgot who mentioned it, but there is a sweet spot in keeping lithium and Nickel+Cadmium/Hydride batteries alive for a long time.. that's keeping the battery charge between 40 and 60 percent. In an electric car you either do this by extremely limiting the range, or adding a hell of a lot more batteries than you need. Either way, you're adding a lot of weight.

        A hybrid has no problem keeping batteries at 40-60%. Toyota designed the Prius this way, which is why batteries in the older models have lasted up to 10 years.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You're extrapolating from liIon used in portable electronics that don't have good thermal management, and go from maximum charge to almost dead to maximize run time and minimize weight. That's why the lifespan is so short in those devices.

        But in an EV, there is good thermal management, and good battery management tries to keep the charge in the "sweet spot", not fully charging or fully discharging, using about half the battery capacity. Under those conditions, the battery lasts much longer. (It has to, it is warranted for many more years and is much more expensive than a cell phone battery.)

        There is substantial savings both in maintenance and in fuel costs, that savings can make up the difference in cost very quickly.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Boyprodigy, Prius batteries are not lithium, so we still have no long term data other than what we've seen in electronic gadgets, which have not been fabulous in terms of battery life.

        And the thing with the Prius is that it has a gas engine to back things up. Even as the battery degrades, the car remains driveable. With an electric car, as the battery dies, you just end up charging more often. I guess the upside is that the postal service workers will get extra breaks, lol.

        I just think it's a big risk to take, with taxpayer money we don't even have at this point, on a technology that's barely leaving it's infancy, when we already have solid data that hybrids are great for this kind of duty, and can be reliable as any gas setup. I know people who are still driving first generation priuses, which have been around since 1997.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You guys have valid points.

        I think the problem is this; the only real electric car people have experience with is the Tesla, and various pieces of crap made by small companies that are struggling to stay alive, putting out NEV vehicles, or making vaporware claims..

        Other than lithium ion in consumer electronics, where's the proof that a. lithium lasts 10 years, and b. electric cars are cheaper to run in the long term ... nowhere! consumer-driveable lithium electric cars are so new that we have no idea.

        I guess i just don't like the idea of the government dropping major $$$ on a tech that is so new that it doesn't even have a track record yet, thinking it will be cheaper on the long run.

        Doesn't that seem a little foolish to buy 20,000 of these right off the bat..
        I dunno about you guys, but i like to wait & see how a new technology does before i invest.

        Again, i'm totally for electric/lithium. I just know too well of it's downfalls at this moment.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The money for the upgrades will be justified in the savings. Trust me.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @neptronix
        Hybrids use a battery cycle that is potentially even more abusive than an EV (depending on if it is motor assist or a full hybrid) since it is a high power and low energy battery. Li-ion only lasts 5 years in typical consumer use because of no temperature and charge control (right next to the hot areas of a laptop or cellphone and likely charged/discharged to near the 100%/0% extremes). Also, the lifetime depends on cathode and anode materials; the most common in consumer use is cobalt for the cathode and graphite for the anode, but for automotive use this may not be the case.

        In this low volume fleet case, it is hard to tell how much less a hybrid implementation will cost vs an electric one (esp considering maintenance over the fleet's lifetime, which is typically a very important metric for fleets). This will probably depend on how much of the design is custom.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Alright go ahead and wait ten years. Its going to be more than viable by then, and far more affordable at that point. The other thing that you aren't taking into consideration is that things bought in bulk are a lot less expensive. They are buying 20,000 battery packs rated at 300 miles which means that there are a lot of cells per pack. Have you ever seen how much less something costs when you buy 1,000,000 or more of an item? They will probably be getting a really good price per kWh of storage.

        Also, your experience really hasn't been with properly maintenanced cells. It has been, as the others have pointed out, with lower cost (cheap) poorly managed consumer electronics cells, which are prone to damaging themselves very quickly due to their lack of ability to care for themselves. If you want to see improvement in battery life through management, look at the prius. Its battery pack barely lasted 5 years for the first model for most people. Now the third generation prius comes with a 10 year 150000 mile warranty on the battery pack. It is a matter of tuning that "sweet spot" that Chris M was talking about.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Neptronix, do you really believe that there hasn't been any research regarding the longevity of lithium chemistries by manufacturers, universities or public and private institutes?
        Don't be ridiculous.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well, a hybrid would be a good middle ground. It is also well suited for this kind of duty.
        Vehicles like this do nothing but stop and go, with lots of regenerative braking! they could be getting, who knows.. 40-50-60mpg? and at a hell of a lot less cost..

        Just sayin, a hybrid would be the best value per dollar in the long run, until electric vehicles with good range are under the $100,000 mark :)
        • 4 Years Ago
        Did you not hear that part about savings? Hybrids are expensive maintenance. They take expensive fuel, and they still have costly ICE repairs. An EV has less than 20 moving parts total! What is going to break there. NOTHING! Literally nothing will break down, and with 300 mile batteries, they will be able to maintain optimum charges almost all the time. EV in this case is the perfect scenario...
        • 4 Years Ago
        What about replacing the batteries? They run the hell out of those mail trucks. Current lithium ion batteries usually last 5 years and poop out at moderate use. What about at heavy use, 8 hours a day?

        We have engine technology that will last longer than 20 years, easy.. hybrids cost a hell of a lot less than EVs.. and with the type of driving

        Don't get me wrong, i'm all for EV's. But i fail to see the value proposition in them right now. Their purchase price makes them very hard to justify at this moment in time, especially for this application. They'll get cheaper in time, but i think right now hybrids rock the value per dollar ratio, even long term, for this kind of stop and go city driving.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I have to agree with Neptronix. A bill for 2 Billion dollars with the second phase to acquire the remaining vehicles after it is determined what works and what does not?!! On top of this, this bill is for the USPS which is bleeding red ink!! With what money???
        If this were private industry, the proper method would be proven before major funding is approved. It seems that the first Billion of this bill is for experimentation and that is irresponsible.

        Like Boyprodigy says, Simplicity is good, electricity is good, lower costs are good. But I want to see proof before the check is cut. Especially when the USPS is involved; anything that can be broken will be broken.
      • 4 Years Ago
      AM General & Smith Electric Vehicles already have the contract.. :>) s o what is this noise all about.. the current vehicle is an AM general & they are matching in with a Smith Electric vehicle powertrain.

      Smith Electric Vehicles are currently made in Kansas City and it has been reported already.. last November2009. http://mailingservicecenter.com/280/usps-news/usps-mail-trucks-going-green/#more-280

      http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2009/12/electric-truck-pioneer-says-2010-looking-good-for-greening-intra-city-fleets.html
      • 4 Years Ago
      "The test vehicle will use AC Propulsion's AC-150 drive system and have a range of up to 300 miles at 60 mph."

      Being the post-person has it's advantages. Wow this thing will do better than AC Propulsion's ebox conversion which only went 150 miles/charge for $75k. Get going, produce those batteries, install those charging stations, stimulate the economy, create those jobs, upgrade the grid... Go, go, go!
        • 4 Years Ago
        that's literally the first thing I said, holy cow!! I don't even think the current little vans can do that (ok maybe they can but still) Its almost overkill!! I think those batteries will last quite a long time.

        This is a good thing to do, will lower operating costs for the postal service and provide good money and good jobs.

        I also like that they are going to outfit them, these are a reliable platform and have served this nation well, its about time they get a little something high tech under the hood, I want to become a postal worker just so I could drive one of these little buggers :P
        • 4 Years Ago
        a 300mile AC-150 conversion is sure to cost a lot of money but maybe that's just a test vehicle and maybe ACpropulsion will have the revised motor controller ready soon with a substantially more realistic pricetag
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just wanted to let you know that my LLV currently gets closer to 11 MPG.
      • 4 Years Ago
      it does not help to make the llv electric powered if you do not fix its other problems. the biggest being making it all wheel drive and getting rid of the pieces of concrete bolted inthe rear area believing they were going to fix any traction problem. let us not forget the "caution blind spot signs "also.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I know the llv is rear wheel drive. I know the pieces of concrete are removable. I know where I am located, the concrete stays in all year long. I have driven the LLV ever since it first arrived at my post office in 1988. It handles poorly in snow and ice and pieces of concrete are not the best solution. I don't believe the concrete will disappear as Ido not believe anyone will look further than putting an electric motor in it and calling things a uccess.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The LLV is RWD those pieces of concrete (which are removable) are for traction in areas that get snow.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "The test vehicle will use AC Propulsion's AC-150 drive system and have a range of up to 300 miles at 60 mph."

      WTF? That is expensive overkill. And it better not use the crappy AC propulsion battery pack.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The AC Propulsion "TZero" EV prototype with their LiIon battery pack did have a range of 300 miles - pretty darn good for a "crappy" battery pack. I suspect that somebody didn't really know what the range was going to be, but knew AC Propulsion was involved, so guessed it would be "up to 300 miles".

        That isn't likely, as these vehicles don't need the same range or the same power as that TZero, so it obviously doesn't need as big of a battery. Considering the requirements of mail delivery routes, a hundred mile range would be more likely.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Do one of those little vans even have room for a 300 mile capacity pack?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grumman_LLV

      I wonder if that horrible fuel efficiency is due to all of the stopping and starting at a line of mailboxes. If so, it seems regenerative braking would be a huge benefit on an electrified version.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That fuel mileage doesn't seem so horrible to me. 16/18/17 for a 1987 truck designed to last 30 years of stop-n-go?

        Regen (electric, hydraulic, kinetic, whatever) would be better, but the current mpg is far from horrible.
      harlanx6
      • 4 Years Ago
      Does anyone know what type of battery these things will use? Those Grummans have a lot of room in them for batteries. 300 miles of range is astounding from what I have heard about the EVs on the market now. I wonder what the cost per unit is projected to be.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Actually, you can see the A123 logo at the back end of the USPS van in the picture.
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