The U.S. Postal Service relied on false assumptions to assess purchases of a new generation of delivery vehicles, a government watchdog said Tuesday.
Jill Naamane of the Government Accountability Office told a House hearing that a Postal Service analysis used to justify a mix of gasoline and electric vehicles overstated the costs of maintaining electric vehicles and relied on prices gasoline that do not reflect current price spikes.
While the Postal Service estimated in 2020 that gas would cost between $2.21 and $2.36 per gallon, the national average in March was $4.24 per gallon, according to the AAA Gas Prices website.
The Postal Service also did not take into account the lower gas mileage of gasoline-powered vehicles while using air conditioning or put a premium on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electric vehicles, Naamane said.
Naamane’s testimony came as the House Committee on Oversight and Reform reviewed a Postal Service contract to replace its huge fleet of mail delivery trucks with a mix of gasoline and electric vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency and Democratic lawmakers have said the plan calls for too few electric vehicles and falls short of President Joe Biden’s climate change goals.
The Postal Service initially suggested 10% of vehicles would be electric based on initial costs, but 20% of vehicles were electric in the Postal Service’s initial $2.98 billion order for about 50,000 vehicles. The contract provides for the production of no less than 165,000 vehicles.
The Postal Service fleet includes 190,000 local delivery vehicles. More than 141,000 of them are models put into service between 1987 and 1994 and lacked safety features such as airbags, anti-lock brakes and rear view cameras.
Vicki Stephen, director of the Postal Service’s next-generation vehicle program, defended the assessment made by the agency’s experts. While long-term maintenance costs are lower for electric vehicles compared to gasoline-powered vehicles, upfront costs for electric vehicles are higher, Stephen said.
The contract allows the Postal Service to increase the number of electric vehicles purchased, but she noted that the independent agency remains in “a state of crisis.”
Oversight committee chair Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y, is among those advocating for more electric vehicles, saying they’re cheaper in the long run in addition to reducing greenhouse gases.
“Electric vehicles are the vehicles of the future. Continuing to buy gas-guzzling vehicles is not only bad for the environment, it’s bad for the Postal Service and bad for its customers,” Maloney said.
Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the top Republican on the panel, said Democrats pushing the Postal Service to buy at least 75% electric vehicles want the agency to be “a guinea pig for their radical Green New Deal agenda.”
During the hearing, some Republicans expressed concern about China’s grip on rare earth minerals and battery production, suggesting that China would benefit from larger purchases of electric vehicles.
Sharp reported from Portland, Maine.