The first photos of a prototype mail delivery truck indicate that the U.S. Postal Service may be going electric.

The photos were taken recently by a Trucks.com reader and electric vehicle enthusiast as a postal service worker delivered mail in Leesburg, Va., about 30 miles northwest of Washington, D.C.

Workhorse electric postal truck side

Prototype electric U.S. Postal Service truck. (Photo: Trucks.com)

The truck is a prototype undergoing road tests in the USPS’ Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Program. It most likely was the offering from a team that includes truck body manufacturer VT Hackney Inc. and electric truck company Workhorse Group Inc., which make up one of the five final entries in the contest to build the postal service’s next delivery truck.

Workhorse confirmed it was their truck in a tweet Monday after the story was first published.

The Hackney/Workhorse team is the only competitor offering a pure battery electric truck. It will have a small BMW gasoline engine that will act as a generator to extend the range of the truck. Workhorse will supply the powertrain and chassis, and VT Hackney will build the body. The truck must be able to carry 1,500 pounds of mail and have at least 155 cubic feet of cargo space.

It is expected to have a vehicle architecture similar to the Workhorse W-15 electric pickup truck, sharing many components, Jeffrey Osborne, a Cowen & Co. automotive analyst, said in a recent report to investors.

The truck delivering mail in Virginia has an attention-grabbing profile that features a low-slung aerodynamic hood, oversized windows for increased visibility and an upright stance for the cargo box. Painted with the postal service eagle logo and red, white and blue livery, the right-hand drive truck was clearly an electric vehicle and made almost no noise as it drove through a Virginia neighborhood.

The USPS also is evaluating mail truck prototypes from AM General, Karsan, Mahindra and Oshkosh. All five entrants delivered their prototypes to the Postal Service last month. An award is expected in the first half of next year.

Workhorse electric postal truck driver side

Prototype electric U.S. Postal Service truck. (Trucks.com)

The new vehicle will replace the boxy Grumman Long Life Vehicle that has delivered letters and packages since it was designed for the USPS in the 1980s. Of the 215,000 mail trucks in rotation, 140,000 are at least two decades old. The new contract could be for as many as 180,000 trucks.

The USPS has said that half of the prototypes “will feature hybrid and new technologies, including alternative fuel capabilities.” 

“Our goal is to obtain vehicles that will help us provide reliable and efficient delivery service for customers and honor our commitment to reducing the environmental impact of our fleet, while meeting the needs of our employees to best do their jobs safely,” the office of the USPS inspector general said in a statement announcing the next generation truck program.

Editor's note: this report was updated to reflect Workhorse Group's confirmation. 

Read next: New USPS Mail Truck Visions: a Hummer, a Tesla, a Ferrari?

About The Author

Jerry Hirsch

Jerry Hirsch is a veteran business journalist who is Editor and Vice President of Content of Trucks.com. Prior to joining Trucks.com, Hirsch was nationally known as the automotive writer for the Los Angeles Times. His work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, the Toronto Star, Consumers Digest and many other publications. He can be found on Twitter: @JerryHirsch.

41 Responses

  1. MARK HUBBARD

    This has flaws already. Huge blind spot, when looking left due to pillar. No mirror, to see what’s behind rear. Think kids at rear of truck, holding on to rear. Think getting in and out every 50 ft. Huge dash area, is a giant dust collector, trash, etc.

    Reply
    • Matt

      The rear view mirrors are mounted far to the front if you look at the pictures and the pillars are moved forward. Should help greatly reduce the massive blind spots from thr current generation vehicles. They have rear view cameras instead of the rear pot mirrors which are pretty much useless as you have to angle your left mirror just right to see it and lose sight of the left side to use it. Maybe without the pot mirror usps will actually maintain the cameras on these instead of disabling them like they did on the last batch of llvs because they “gave drivers too much confidence while backing”

      Reply
    • Bob Patterson

      How about rear and side-view cameras, with a display screen in a normal rear view mirror position or a flat screen left of the driver?

      Solar panels on the roof can provide backup power for AC, heat, and other accessories.

      Charging stations are not required with back-up ICE to provide power to keep the batteries charged; i.e. toyota technology

      Reply
      • Herman

        Bob, the target price range for these vehicles is $25-35k each. Solar panels and various extras are not in the budget. In fact anything beyond simple start/stop and perhaps start torque assist, plus a small (max 1kWh) battery for regen and start assist, is all that the project can afford.

      • Todd Jefferson

        From the pictures, it looks like it has front and side cameras, and presumably there’s a rear one as well. That could be combined to make a bird’s eye view, as in many commercial vehicles. That would be great for visibility and backing up. It would have the same concerns as relying on cameras on my vehicle.

      • Rhaman

        Sorry but solar panels will not work. A few would not provide power and with flat orientation and the vehicle moving any efficiency would not be with the expense. Solar panels to charge storage batteries to recharge the vehicles at night is probably too expensive as well. Thanks

    • Clare Snyder

      Likely has rear view and or 360 degree camera – what new vehicle depends on mirrors?

      Reply
  2. Gail

    Will there be heat and air in these vehicles? The current postal vehicles have neither.

    Reply
  3. Pat

    But, will they ACTUALLY test in, snow, sleet and rain? LLV’s were tested in Arizona. Never in snow. They SUCK in anything over 1-2 inches!

    Reply
  4. Jerry

    Adequate Heat? Air cond? Shelves? Walk through cab? I guess reporting isn’t what it used to be.

    Reply
  5. Retired

    Are you kidding? Carriers don’t need no stinking creature comfort features . We are just a drain on the system.

    Reply
  6. J.

    Looks interesting. Maybe a “Help” bumper (energy absorbing ) on front to reduce frontal shocks. Mirrors are an off-the-shelf ugly contraction commonly found on school buses. Fender flares will be useful, a little. Split window is nice touch, keeps out some rain while tossing mail in boxes. Wipers are cute, but might be better hung from above for better vision, easier servicing. Headlight cluster is unique and weird. Dash is a non-issue when a/c or defrost is required it WILL be kept clean. “A” pillar is a little thick, not sure why; but the little triangle window next to the pillar is only useful to a stuffed animal…and a small one at that.

    Reply
  7. Mike Pastore

    Too small cant handle Parcel volume 1 ton vehicles for all residential routes

    Reply
  8. SA

    Remember that this is one of 4 or 5 designs, others may be better, let’s hope anyway.

    Reply
    • William

      SA it’s 5 prototypes…and the design of the headlights for real?!?! Hahaha! This forum seems to call to trolls. Workhorse is a progressive American company that is attempting to change the current status quo concerning fleet vehicles.

      I’m sure that if you all were handed a blank slate you’d be able to build the perfect vehicle for the USPS NGDV contract. Oh, but you’d actually have to win a contract first and then figure out manufacturing and design to specifications. This is outside of the multitude of other milestones that your fictional company would have to hurdle before getting an actual OEM manufactured vehicle on the road let alone, in the hands of one of the largest fleets in the country for testing.

      Ya’ll haters are just haters. Nobody is listening to you…except me unfortunately.

      Reply
      • Lou

        You see, that is the bigger problem, nobody is listening to the people who actually use them. I keep hearing they asked carrier’s….I never heard a thing, did you?

  9. Ferdie

    AC???????LLV has heater but no AC it’s torture during the summer heat!!! and heater still blows hot air in the front cabin (poor insulation)

    Reply
  10. Smearski

    I like the size. I’d hate to drive some gigantic monster of a truck around on residential routes like UPS does. How would you park those beasts? Yeah, I guess it’ll be a pain somewhat with the increase in parcel volume, but I’d rather deal with that issue than having to drive an overly large vehicle around on my route. This one seems to be around the same general size of an LLV, which I actually like, easy to drive around and park. My opinion.

    Reply
  11. TwoGuns

    Why wouldn’t USPS have Tesla involved? Tesla power system with supplemental Solar charging in each charging bay. A/C ( upcoming groceries deliveries, medical supplies) for extended & elevated summers temp. A.I. routes w/automated driver options.
    So sad to see 60 year olds that never got how to program VCR make this big desicions.

    Reply
    • Bryan

      The contract was/is open to whoever wanted to apply. Tesla didn’t. I have a feeling they wouldn’t like the profit margin on lack thereof proposed with the final delivery price. About $25,000 each and the USPS wants a warranty.

      Reply
    • Allah's Third Nipple

      The target cost per unit is sub $35K, well under Tesla’s operating range. This is why solar is out of the equation. Tesla does not have facilities to mfg vehicles – or even vehicle components – on the scale that will be needed. I’m given to understand that Tesla expressed interest in this project early on but just like Nissan and General Motors, they were eliminated – all for similar reasons.

      The target life of the replacement for the LLV is 20 years. USPS wants an electric delivery fleet, or at the very least an efficient hybrid one. Anyone with the ability to read the tea leaves knows that the availability of petroleum fuels will be greatly reduced in this timeframe. The Workhorse Group powertrain is the only contender that is reliant on electric. For that reason alone, we are likely looking at the contract winner on this page.

      Reply
  12. KEITH WILDE

    They need camera’s all around, look at the new Ford Pick up trucks, need a heavy duty brush guard o. The front because some locations are out in the country where you have large animals, and safe for the driver, and than teach the mail carrier how to drive some think they are above the driving laws

    Reply
    • Citycarrier

      Its almost a guarantee that the new vehicles will have cameras inside observing the carrier as well. Now we can be more than just dots on a screen for the supervisors to see. “hmmm, why is he stopped there for more than 2 minutes?” Guess no more back of the truck bathroom breaks with a rancid Mountain Dew bottle

      Reply
  13. Jack

    Jerry it wasn’t a road test… it is a spy photo. Great reporting .

    Road test reporting will come when they do a road test.

    Reply
  14. Allen

    you know how many college campuses are looking for small electric power vans or trucks to provide service to their customers. Take out the mail bins and these would be perfect

    Reply
  15. Robert Thomson

    It seems to me that it would make a whole lot more sense to heat and cool the seat as opposed to the whole cabin. There is only ever one person in these things. I’m sure it would cut down on energy consumption a lot. Every time you stop, regen charges the battery, and there is no idle loss while it is sitting still.

    Reply
  16. Alan Rose

    Wow! It may have it flaws, but it looks like a major improvement over the current LLV’s. We’ve been working with letter carriers for 20 years and I’d have to believe that any change would be welcomed. The current LLV’s don’t really support modern day carriers.

    Reply
  17. MtnCarrier

    Can anyone say how tall this vehicle is? I have several parking structures I have to enter and the 7′ 1″ LLV just makes it.

    Reply

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