Monday, September 08, 2003

Questions I have (pt I)

With a lot of time on my hands now, I am starting to ask questions.

How many US Postal Service delivery trucks are there in the US? Taking a WAG, I'd say that there are somewhere on the order of 100,000,000 US delivery addresses (say population of 280E6, 4/houshold average, yields 70E6 homes, plus half as many businesses). Now each of those addresses should be visited by a mail carrier once per postal day. If we generously assume even distribution of addresses, and that each truck can visit 1000 addresses, then there should be 100,000 USPS trucks on the road each day.

Now, each of those trucks follows a fixed route that is, at least in urban areas, relatively short -- maybe 20-30 miles. They spend each night at a central depot, behind a fence (at least they do at the post office near me).

So the real question is Why isn't the post office leading the charge to develop electric vehicles? These vehicles are ideal candidates for the current generation of ZEVs. They never travel long distance, they always spend the night at a charging station. There could be a large enough volume order that economies of scale could persuade the manufacturer to eat the development costs in return for a reasonably long-term contract (5 years?). And as a quasi-government agency, they should have some kind of social responsibility to address growing environmental concerns, especially in Urban regions. All talk of global warming aside, is there an urban area in the country that doesn't experience multiple air quality alerts over the course of the summer? While the mail delivery trucks may not be a significant contributor to ground-level pollution, they seem like an obvious place to start.

Update: According to this document the USPS has about 200,000 vehicles (so I was conservative by a factor of two which puts me in the ballpark) of which 30,000 (15%) are Alternative Fuel Vehicles. However only about 500 are electric vehicles, so there is definitely room for improvement.