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.
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.
— Workhorse Group (@Workhorse_Group) October 9, 2017
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.
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.