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Clean Transport

Amazon Claps Back At Walmart, Launches New Electric Vehicle

Everyone is talking about the electric vehicle race between Amazon and Walmart, but the US Postal Service is also coming on strong.

It’s game on between Amazon and Walmart in the zero emission delivery race. The two behemoths in the shipping and delivery field have been going mano a mano for the title of first gigantic corporate entity to launch a bespoke electric vehicle on neighborhood streets. It’s all good news for startup EV makers Canoo and Rivian, so let’s take a look and see what’s cooking.

And The Electric Vehicle PR Winner Of The Week Is … Amazon!

This week the title goes to Amazon and Rivian, which have just unveiled their new street-ready, custom made electric vehicle, or rather an Electric Delivery Vehicle (EDV for short). The plan is to start using the first batch on delivery routes more or less immediately.

Amazon intends to have 100,000 Rivian EDVs plying the streets by 2030, so they better get to work.

The unveiling took place at Amazon’s Chicago facility on Woodland Avenue in Chicago, where the company also showcased the all-important electric vehicle charging equipment and other infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Over At Walmart …

Amazon’s new announcement may have stole some thunder from Amazon, which wowed the electric vehicle world earlier this month after it placed an order for thousands of EVs from the EV startup Canoo, which also let word slip that its electric van has been tapped for the high-profile task of shuttling astronauts to the launch pad for operations related to the Artemis moon mission.

CleanTechnica’s Jo Borrás scooped the Artemis news and he also picked up another juicy piece of news from Canoo. The US Army has become EV-curious of late, and some of that glow has rubbed off on Canoo.

Well, baby steps. The actual project consists of exactly one Canoo electric vehicle, which the Army plans to use for analysis and demonstrations.

On the other hand, considering the size and variety of the Army’s vehicle fleet, one Canoo EV could soon become many.

As the Army explains in its official solicitation for bids on the new EV contract, the idea is to “incorporate a scalable and adaptable capability that reduces reliance on fossil fuels both in the operational and garrison environments for the Army.”

“The vehicle will also demonstrate the ability to effectively generate, store and distribute power to the Soldier,” they add, which is also very interesting.

Wait, What About Oshkosh Defense?

Those of you familiar with the Army’s foray into EV-land may be wondering why the firm OshKosh Defense didn’t zoom in and swoop up that new EV contract. After all, the company is a longtime defense contractor and earlier this year it started promoting EV technology to the Army, in the form of the new “first-ever silent drive hybrid-electric Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.”

That’s a good question. Go ask Oshkosh. The company probably has its hands full competing for a hand in the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, which has scheduled a follow-on production contract in September 2022.

“The follow-on contract, valued at $6.5 Billion, includes an additional 15,468 vehicles and five order years followed by five options years, extending production through FY32,” Oshkosh explains, adding that adding electric drive to the project was its own idea.

“While the U.S. Army has not requested a hybrid-electric JLTV as part of the JLTV recompete, the eJLTV proves that Oshkosh Defense has the team and technical capabilities to produce this highly capable vehicle today,” said Oshkosh Corporation EVP John Bryant, who is also President of Oshkosh Defense.

And Whatever Happened To The Big USPS Electric Vehicle Plan?

All this talk about the US Army, electric vehicle fleets, and Oshkosh Defense leads naturally to the US Postal Service and its big plans for fleet electrification, which are actually not big, at least not yet.

CleanTechnica has spilled a lot of ink over the Postal Service’s new delivery truck contract with Oshkosh Defense, which enables USPS to finally replace its aging fleet of gasmobiles. However, the contract set just a tiny fraction aside for electric vehicles.

On its part, Oshkosh has stated that its new USPS vehicle is designed to accommodate electric drive or internal combustion engines, depending on whatever Postmaster Louis DeJoy decides. The company has also stated that its design is retrofit-able, in case DeJoy changes his mind midstream.

DeJoy did budge a little bit last spring, to make room for electric drive for 20% of the initial order of 50,000 delivery trucks. That sounds pretty good, considering that the initial contract called for only 10% EVs overall. However, it still means that 40,000 new delivery trucks will roll off the assembly line with good old fashioned gasmobile technology under the hood.

The Postmaster General also appeared to move a litter closer towards the electric vehicle side on June 1, when USPS issued a press release that included an elaborate explainer for its decision to shortchange EV technology. They did leave the door open for more EVs, though.

“The Postal Service also intends to explore options for accelerating the production of the initial 10,019 BEVs towards the front of the production line and anticipates taking advantage of the flexibility built into the contract with Oshkosh Defense to increase the number of BEVs purchased in the initial delivery order,” it stated.

Perhaps its newfound enthusiasm for electric vehicles has something to do with multiple lawsuits filed over the new contract, including one brought by 16 states over shortcomings in the initial environmental review.

Who Will Win The Electric Vehicle Race?

Circling back around to the competition between Amazon and Walmart, if there’s a three-way EV race going on with USPS, Walmart may have some catching up to do. Amazon already has its first Rivian fleet on the street as we speak, and USPS has hinted that its first new electric vehicles will hit the road some time late next year.

Apparently Walmart expects to squeeze its first Canoo EVs into the lineup sometime next year.

Meanwhile, no discussion of vehicles, electric or otherwise, is complete without a mention of last month’s Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs case, which pulled the rug out from under millions of women, girls, and transgender and non-binary individuals who could otherwise expect to manage their own pregnancies according to their own needs and desires, including access to medically appropriate care and abortion services.

The ruling doesn’t just bring the hammer down on pregnant people. It means that anyone caught driving with a uterus could be suspected of traveling with intent to abort a fetus. Really. How exactly are these new abortion laws to be enforced, if not by identifying, tracking, tracing, and potentially apprehending anyone capable of carrying a pregnancy. That means a world of headaches for companies and agencies with operations across the country.

We bring this up because the USPS is squarely in the middle of the abortion access battle, in its role as a delivery service for medications that can be legally used to terminate a pregnancy as well as contraceptives and other things having to do with reproductive choice.

As of last month, USPS has stated that it will continue to follow federal requirements for “what can and can’t be mailed,” regardless of new state based anti-abortion restrictions.

Amazon has yet to take a formal position on the Dobbs ruling (unless you’ve heard otherwise), though last spring it joined a number of other companies in pledging to pay travel expenses for employees seeking out-of-state abortion services. That’s not a long term solution, considering that clinics in abortion-permitting states are already becoming overwhelmed with the influx of new patients, and Republicans in Congress are already talking about imposing a nationwide abortion ban.

Walmart’s health plan reportedly does not cover abortion services, except where the health of the mother or non-viability of the fetus are involved. Earlier this month, CNBC reported that the company is still working on a response to Dobbs. If you have any update on that drop us a note in the comment thread.

Update: Yesterday, CNN reported that the US Postal Service is now saying that “at least 40% of its new delivery vehicles will be electric, up from the 10% it had once committed to, following a backlash from the Biden administration and others.” According to CNN, most of the increase will come from Oshkosh Defense, leaving some wiggle room for “off the shelf” purchases. That could put Canoo and Rivian in the running along with other EV makers.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo courtesy of Rivian.

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