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Postal Service says Oshkosh Defense will build as many as 165,000 electric or fuel-efficient trucks

The United States Post Office said Tuesday that it picked Oshkosh Defense for a $482 million contract to build its next-generation mail-delivery vehicle. The effort is part of the USPS' goal to become more environmentally friendly by switching a portion of its huge fleet of mail trucks to electric vehicles. 

Oshkosh Defense, a division of Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corp., will assemble 50,000 to 165,000 of the new Next Generation Delivery Vehicles at its existing U.S. manufacturing facilities. The new fleet will  include electric vehicles as well as fuel-efficient gas-powered vehicles which will have the ability to be retrofitted with new electric systems in the future. USPS described the deal as the first part of a multibillion-dollar 10-year effort to replace its aging delivery vehicle fleet and be more environmentally friendly. 

"Because we operate one of the largest civilian government fleets in the world, we are committed to pursuing near-term and long-term opportunities to reduce our impact on the environment," Postmaster General and USPS Chief Executive Officer Louis DeJoy said.

Reaction to the new vehicles was mixed, with some people praising its design while Popular Mechanics tweeted that the design is "weird." 

Style critiques notwithstanding, the new design is aimed at improving fuel efficiency while also providing more comfort and safety to USPS workers, with better ergonomics and 360-degree cameras. 

The USPS mail's current fleet has drawn attention for its age and poor condition, with reports of truck fires and breakdowns. The new mail-delivery vehicles will be updated with modern safety and drivability standards such as airbags and collision-avoidance systems.

Bigger cargo capacity

In addition, the new vehicles will feature bigger cargo capacity to handle the increased package volume the postal service is now handling. Since the postal service last updated its mail-delivery trucks 30 years ago, there have been major changes in the service's operations. The service now delivers millions of packages from online retailers like Amazon that did not exist when the previous mail vehicle was introduced, while traditional mail delivery has declined.

The choice of Wisconsin-based Oshkosh is a big miss for Ohio-based electric-vehicle startup Workhorse Group, which put in an all-electric bid for the vehicles. Shares of Workhorse fell more than 47% Tuesday, and fell another 12% in early trading on Wednesday. 

The first NGDVs are estimated to appear on carrier routes in 2023. 

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