Another prototype mail delivery truck in the running for a lucrative U.S. Postal Service contract has been spotted while awaiting testing.
Spy photographers captured images of the truck, built by the Indian auto manufacturer Mahindra, recently on a USPS lot in Flint, Mich.
The Mahindra truck is one of five entries under review by the USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle Program that is expected to select a new mail truck in the first half of 2018. The USPS contract is for up to 180,000 trucks.
It is the latest mail truck test vehicle documented in the secretive program since another entry built by VT Hackney Inc. and Workhorse Group Inc. was seen in Leesburg, Va. last month.
The post office has yet to reveal details about the configurations of the five candidates or their drivetrains. But a physical inspection and government filing provide significant details about the Mahindra truck.
Though the truck made by VT Hackney and Workhorse is fully electric, the Mahindra truck offers the option of gasoline or mild-hybrid powertrains, according to a recent National Highway Transportation Safety Administration filing by Mahindra North American Technical Center Inc.
The truck will be powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine made by General Motors— possibly the same engine in the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickup trucks. In those vehicles the engine makes 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque.
Some versions of the Mahindra truck will have a mild hybrid system, according to the filing. GM currently produces a mild hybrid system called eAssist on the same 2.5-liter engine that is standard on the 2018 Buick LaCrosse.
The filing also reveals that if Mahindra wins the contract, it will build two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive versions of the mail delivery truck, and that an automatic engine start-stop system is available on two-wheel drive models.
The design will be exclusive to the USPS, and Mahindra will build the truck in three weight classes: 6,001 to 7,000 pounds (Class E); 7,001 to 8,000 pounds (Class F); and 8,001 to 9,000 pounds (Class G).
The Mahindra truck bears a closer resemblance to the current mail truck, the Grumman Long Life Vehicle, than the Hackney/Workhorse truck. Its boxy exterior design and tall roof provide plenty of cargo space. An assortment of external mirrors enhances outward visibility.
Technology plays a central role in the new truck. Cameras are mounted to the side of the Mahindra truck near the roofline, and there may be a forward-facing camera in the front grille as well.
The driver controls the transmission using electronic buttons on the dashboard. There is also a large infotainment screen in front of the driver in lieu of a traditional tachometer and other gauges.
The right-hand drive truck is equipped with an electronic start/stop button. Climate control knobs are on the left side of the wheel. The shape of the steering column may indicate that the Mahindra truck features electronic power steering rather than a traditional hydraulic system.
The postal service is currently testing all five finalists in the competition in various locations across the country.
In addition to Mahindra and Hackney/Workhorse, entries from AM General, Karsan and Oshkosh are also under consideration.
The current Grumman mail truck has been in service since the 1980s. There are about 215,000 trucks in rotation today and approximately 140,000 are at least two decades old.
Mahindra builds a wide array of trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles for the Indian market. The postal service truck would be unlike anything it has produced for the United States.
Currently Mahindra sells tractors and utility vehicles in the U.S. and operates the Mahindra North American Technical Center production facilities in Troy, Mich.