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USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, image courtesy of Oshkosh Defense

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New US Postal Service Contractor Proposes Electric Vehicles … For US Army

Electric vehicle fans cried foul over the dim showing for EVs in the new US Postal Service delivery truck contract, but Oshkosh Defense may get the last laugh.

US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy earned himself a rousing Bronx cheer last year when he awarded a contract to the firm Oshkosh Defense for up to 165,000 brand new vehicles for the US Postal Service, most of which could run on the same old fossil fuel. Critics also criticized DeJoy for awarding the contract to a company without much experience in the electric vehicle field, but as it turns out, that’s not quite a fair characterization of Oshkosh Defense.

Oshkosh Defense Does So Make Electric Vehicles

Oshkosh Defense did hedge its bets when it competed for the USPS contract. The rather oddball design of its winning vehicle reflects an attempt to accommodate a gasmobile platform while allowing for electric vehicle technology, too.

“…the vehicle platform can accommodate both internal combustion and battery-electric engines. Over the next ten years, we will build and deliver between 50,000 and 165,000 battery electric and low emission internal combustion engine vehicles with 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive, depending on the Postal Service’s requirements,” explains parent company Oshkosh Corporation.

DeJoy blamed inadequate funding for the skimpy allotment of electric vehicles in the contract, reportedly topping out at 10% of the total. As reported in CleanTechnica and elsewhere, some legislators have indicated that Congress could cough up the money to cover more electric vehicles, so we’ll see where that goes.

Meanwhile, Oshkosh Defense describes itself as a company with 25 years of experience in developing electric vehicle technology, which it has leveraged in the direction of fire trucks, cement trucks, and other niche applications that require close design collaboration with the user.

So far the focus has been on hybrid electric vehicles. If there is an experience gap in all-electric technology to be filled, Oshkosh has reportedly enlisted Ford Motor Company to help fill it. Last February The Detroit Free Press caught wind of a rumor that Ford will supply components for both EVs and gasmobiles covered by the USPS contract, which was later confirmed.

On the battery side, last February Oshkosh announced a partnership with the advanced battery innovator Microvast, so it looks like that base is covered, too.

Check Out This New Electric Vehicle From Oshkosh Defense

Earlier this week, Oshkosh Defense upped the ante on its electric vehicle business by introducing the new eJLTV, described as the “first-ever silent drive hybrid-electric Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.”

The “Joint” in JLTV refers to potential for use by both the Army and the Marine Corps.

“The eJLTV offers the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps the same level of performance and protection as the base JLTV with the addition of silent drive, extended silent watch, enhanced fuel economy, and increased exportable power that enables it to be used in combat and reconnaissance scenarios,” Oshkosh enthused.

“The eJLTV charges the battery while in use, fully recharging the lithium-ion battery within 30 minutes. This eliminates the need for a charging infrastructure, which remains one of the most significant challenges to the widespread electrification of the tactical wheeled vehicle fleet,” they add, which is interesting.

Josh Bryant, EVP for Oshkosh Corporation and President of Oshkosh Defense, emphasized the affordability angle.

“Now, with the eJLTV, we’re offering our military customers an affordable way to electrify their light tactical wheeled vehicle fleet without compromising the off-road performance or superior protection necessary in combat operations,” he said.

US Military Dips Toe In EV Waters

That thing about using fossil energy to recharge electric vehicle batteries sounds a bit like the current state of affairs for EV owners who drive in areas where the electricity grid still depends on coal or gas power plants. As they say, any port in a storm. The US military has been experimenting with self-forming, transportable micogrids that scavenge renewable energy on site, but those are years away from deployment.

Oshkosh anticipates that the eJLTV can improve fuel economy by 20%. It was designed with a 30 kilowatt-hour battery and room for growth, so the fuel savings could go up as new battery technology enters the market.

Oshkosh produced the eJLTV to grab the pole position when the Defense Department re-competes a $6.5 billion follow-on contract that includes an additional 15,468 vehicles and extends production for another 10 years, production through FY32.

You Just Knew There Was A Solid-State EV Battery In There Somewhere, Right?

Speaking of Microvast, the EV battery firm has popped up on the CleanTechnica radar here and there, and you’ll probably be hearing more about the company because of its interest in the solid-state energy storage field.

Our friends over at the technology publication platform Wccf tech described the solid-state EV battery angle last year, when reporter Rohail Saleem caught wind of an SEC filing that indicates Microvast’s active interest in developing high-capacity batteries with solid electrolytes.

For those of you new to the topic, the classic lithium-ion battery of today sports a liquid electrolyte. The technology has improved impressively over the years, but persistent engineering challenges remain. Fans of solid-state technology are convinced that a solid electrolyte is the answer, with the potential to double or even triple the range of today’s liquid electrolyte batteries.

Solid-state EV batteries have yet to hit the market, but someone is all but certain to break through in the next couple of years. If that someone is Oshkosh Defense and Microvast, they will find themselves in good company.

All the big automakers are rushing the solid-state battery doors for next-generation electric vehicles, including GM, Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis, and BMW.

Ford is also in the solid-state EV battery mix, which is double-interesting on account of its relationship with Oshkosh Defense on the Postal Service contract.

First The Army, Then The Postal Service …

Though 100% electric vehicles would be ideal, the hybrid alternative is nothing to sneeze at. Considering the copious amount of fuel consumed by the US Department of Defense, even a 20% cut would make a significant difference.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look back at the Army’s eLRV demonstration program, which was aimed at motivating automakers to electrify reconnaissance vehicles for silent running.

Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, who is the commanding general of the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia, observed that the success of the eLRV program would mark a significant tactical improvement.

“If successful, the new vehicle will provide increased operational duration, silent mobility and silent watch capability, enabling scouts to go longer and farther with less risk of detection,” he explained.

That sounds an awful lot like the nice, quiet, pollution-free Postal Service delivery truck of the future, right?

Despite a legal challenge to the Postal Service contract, Oshkosh has been forging ahead with plans to launch the new delivery truck within the year, so it remains to be seen whether or not electric drive ends up getting the lion’s share.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo: US Postal Service Next Generation Delivery Vehicle courtesy of Oshkosh Defense.

 

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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