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U-M analysis challenges U.S. Postal Service electric vehicle environmental study

Postal Service
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The Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by President Biden this month contains $3 billion to greatly help the U.S. Postal Service decarbonize its mail-delivery fleet and shift to electric vehicles.

On the heels of the Aug. 16 bill-signing ceremony at the White House, a fresh University of Michigan study finds that switching to all-electric mail-delivery vehicles would result in much larger reductions in greenhouse gas emissions than previously estimated by the USPS.

In its analysis of the potential environmental impacts of another Generation Delivery Vehicle program, the Postal Service underestimated the expected greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles and overestimated the emissions linked with battery-, in accordance with U-M researchers.

“Our paper highlights the truth that the USPS analysis is significantly flawed, which led them to dramatically underestimate the advantages of BEVs, that could have impacted their decision-making process,” said Maxwell Woody, lead writer of the brand new study, published online Aug. 26 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The NGDV program demands the purchase as high as 165,000 new mail delivery trucks on the next decade. The Postal Service said in February that at the very least 10% of the brand new mail trucks will be electric. But following blistering criticism from many quarters, the agency upped that number in July.

Although Postal Service now says at the very least 40% of the brand new delivery vehicles will undoubtedly be electric, the flaws in the USPS environmental analysis remain and have to be addressed, said Woody, a study area specialist at the guts for Sustainable Systems, that is section of the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability.

The brand new study requires a second consider the two delivery-vehicle scenarios the Postal Service evaluated in its 340-page Final Environmental Impact Statement on the NGDV project, published Jan. 7.

That document compared the expected environmental impacts of a delivery fleet with 10% battery-electric vehicles and 90% gasoline-powered trucks (called the ICEV scenario for internal-combustion engine vehicles) to a fleet with 100% battery-electric vehicles (called the BEV scenario).

U-M researchers conducted a cradle-to-grave greenhouse-gas emissions assessmentknown as a life-cycle assessment, or LCAof both scenarios and reached some vastly different conclusions compared to the Postal Service did.

The U-M team determined that:

  • Lifetime greenhouse gas emissions beneath the ICEV scenario will be 15% greater than estimated by the Postal Service, while emissions linked with the BEV scenario will be at the very least 8% less than estimated by the agency.
  • When anticipated improvements to electric vehicles and future electrical-grid decarbonization are considered, a completely electric USPS delivery fleet would bring about around 63% lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to the agency estimated, on the duration of the fleet.
  • An all-electric fleet would reduce lifetime greenhouse gas emissions by 14.7 to 21.4 million metric a great deal of skin tightening and equivalents in comparison with the ICEV scenario. The USPS estimate was 10.3 million metric tons.

The Postal Service declined to touch upon the U-M study.

In February, the agency announced it had completed environmentally friendly review because of its Next Generation Delivery Vehicle program and was moving ahead with plans to start out purchasing the brand new trucks. At the very least 10% of the delivery vehicles will be zero-emissions electric models, as the remainder will be powered by gasoline.

In response, attorneys general from 16 states (including Michigan), the District of Columbia and many environmental groups sued the mail agency to block the initial purchase plan or even to force the Postal Service to get more electric trucks. The agency later pledged to electrify at the very least 40% of its new delivery fleet.

The authors of the brand new study say the primary reasons their findings differ substantially from the USPS email address details are:

  • The U-M study includes greenhouse gases generated within a delivery vehicle’s lifetime, like the mining and manufacturing of materials, vehicle assembly, vehicle operations and service (referred to as use-phase emissions) and end-of-life disposal. The Postal Service analysis looked only at use-phase emissions.
  • The brand new study includes projections of how electrical-grid emissions will probably change on the estimated 20-year service life of next-generation delivery vehicles, as renewables increasingly replace . The USPS analysis didn’t address this factor, that is referred to as grid decarbonization.

  • The U-M study runs on the more accurate solution to calculate vehicle operating emissions, one which depends on fuel economy and fuel combustion intensity rates. The USPS analysis of projected operating emissions was predicated on estimated per-mile emissions rates.

“While our emissions results and USPS emissions values are on a single order of magnitude, the facts of the USPS FEIS appear to have significant miscalculations and vary greatly from the established literature on vehicle LCAs,” the study’s authors wrote.

Study senior author Greg Keoleian said the brand new findings suggest the Postal Service ought to be deploying electric delivery trucks for a price higher than 40%. The failure to take action exposes too little sustainability leadership by the agency, he said.

Most of the largest private fleet operatorsincluding FedEx, UPS, Amazon and Walmarthave begun electrifying their fleets and also have more ambitious electrification and decarbonization targets compared to the current USPS purchase plan, he said.

“Each gas vehicle purchased locks in infrastructure for at the very least 20 years, that will cause the government to fall behind private vehicle fleets and can drive future greenhouse gas emissions that may be dramatically reduced by greater electric delivery vehicle deployment,” said Keoleian, director of the U-M Center for Sustainable Systems.

Ultimately, the USPS decision about next-generation delivery vehicles was based more on cost than climate-altering , he said. The agency estimated an all-electric delivery fleet could have a complete cost of ownership about $3.3 billion greater than a fleet with just 10% electric vehicles.

However, the recently signed U.S. Inflation Reduction Act includes $3 billion to greatly help the U.S. Postal Service meet zero-emission goals: $1.29 billion for the purchase of zero-emission delivery vehicles and $1.71 billion for infrastructure to aid those vehicles.

The excess funds will probably reduce cost-based objections to a completely electric postal delivery fleet.

In addition, the authors of the brand new study say the mail agency’s estimate of a $3.3 billion cost benefits for the ICEV scenario didn’t take into account the climate and public health damages connected with continued usage of fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

“Given the long lifetimes expected of the vehicles, investing in this type of course contradicts U.S. climate policy and environmental justice goals, squanders a chance to deploy BEVs within an ideal use case, exposes too little sustainability leadership, and jeopardizes our capability to meet national and international climate targets,” the analysis authors wrote.

Along with Woody and Keoleian, the authors of environmentally friendly Science & Technology paper are Parth Vaishnav and Michael Craig of the guts for Sustainable Systems at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability.

More info: Maxwell Woody et al, Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of the USPS Next-Generation Delivery Vehicle Fleet, Environmental Science & Technology (2022). DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c02520

Citation: U-M analysis challenges U.S. Postal Service electric vehicle environmental study (2022, August 26) retrieved 27 August 2022 from

This document is at the mercy of copyright. Aside from any fair dealing for the intended purpose of private study or research, no part could be reproduced minus the written permission. This content is provided for information purposes only.

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