“We don’t have the three or four extra billion dollars in our plan right now that it would take to do it,” said Mr. DeJoy, an appointee of former President Donald J. Trump whose decisions — particularly about mail handling during the 2020 election — have made him a political lightning rod. “But we’re happy to talk with the administration and with this Congress.”
Various studies have shown that falling battery prices and lower maintenance costs have made electric trucks increasingly competitive with conventional ones. And there is a precedent for a rapid shift toward electric delivery trucks. Amazon last year ordered 100,000 custom electric delivery vehicles from Rivian, another upstart.
Don Hillebrand, director of Argonne National Laboratory’s Energy Systems Division, said Oshkosh’s experience with large defense contracts for hardy, durable vehicles was probably a factor in the Postal Service decision. Oshkosh is also a leader in autonomous driving technology, which could play a growing role in postal deliveries, he said.
“Last cycle, they went with a vehicle that would stretch for 30 solid years,” Mr. Hillebrand said. “So looking to the next stage, they want the same kind of stability, ability and flexibility.”
Still, the decision was widely panned by environmental groups and other electric vehicle proponents.
“They started a process six years ago, but delayed, delayed, delayed. And when they came to the end of the road, instead of saying, ‘We need to rethink this,’ they made a decision that locks us into internal combustion engines,” said Robbie Diamond, president of Securing America’s Future Energy, a group that advocates American energy independence.
Mr. Diamond added that it was a missed opportunity for the United States to catch up with China, which has jumped ahead in electrifying buses and other vehicle fleets. China has also come to dominate global supply chains for critical component parts required for electric vehicle production.