Workhorse Presents Electric Truck And Drones In USPS Bid

2 years ago by Mark Kane 15

Electric delivery truck "Workhorse" and drone (Photo: Lisa Ventre/University of Cincin)

Electric delivery truck “Workhorse” and drone (Photo: Lisa Ventre/University of Cincin)

Long Life Vehicle

Long Life Vehicle

The Postal Service returns to the idea of all-electric delivery trucks.

Recently, the USPS released a list of pre-qualified companies, from which vehicles will be evaluated for delivery duties ahead of a contract being issues to supply an estimated 180,000 vehicles to the USPS.

One of them – Workhorse Group (formerly AMP Holding, that a few years ago was trying to introduce electric cars and SUV conversions on the market) intends not only to offer Workhorse electric truck, but also to implement it with the “Horsefly” drone developed in partnership with the University of Cincinnati.

Duane Hughes, director of sales at Workhorse Group, Inc. said:

“We feel very confident that our integrated drone technology on top of our electric truck is the best solution for the Postal Service as well as give them the lowest total cost of ownership for their truck needs and their future drone needs.”

In theory it could be good solution because an EV + drone could save on two of most expensive parts of delivery. The first is fuel and the second employee work hours. But will the advantages be strong enough?

“The mail carrier gets to a neighborhood to begin delivering mail or other packages. Meanwhile, the drone delivers a package either on its own or controlled by a pilot remotely to another address a mile or two away, saving the mail carrier time and allowing them to reach more addresses.

Cutting down on the time it takes the Postal Service to complete a route and delivering more packages during that time could save the Postal Service a lot of time and money, according to Hughes. The fifth generation of the Horsefly drone – its most current incarnation – weighs about 15 pounds and can carry a 10-pound package in extendable cages that lock together during flight.

The drone can fly up to 50 miles per hour, but will spend most of its time flying at about 35 miles per hour, according to Hughes.

The drone also comes with automatic stabilizers to make flight easier, and can automatically dock on top of the truck. It then charges itself using the electricity in the electric truck. Because it is attached to the truck and driven into the neighborhood, it removes the issue of a drone flying 30 or 40 miles to deliver a package from a warehouse, according to Hughes.”

USPS needs to buy up to 180,000 vehicles, and would like to purchase them for $25,000 to $35,000 per vehicle (total some $4.5 billion), but trucks must last at least 20 years. Lower maintenance costs and better fuel economy are very important to the delivery service.

In May, the agency plans on issuing a request for proposals and then it will award selected companies a contract to test a prototype. The first plug-in truck will enter service in 2018 at the earliest.

“The agency plans on picking the suppliers for the prototype in July, 2015 and will then test the prototypes through September, 2016. The final supplier will be selected in January, 2017, according to the Postal Service. The Postal Service would start receiving and using the vehicles one year later.”


Hat tip to Cody Osborne!

Source: federaltimes.com

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15 responses to "Workhorse Presents Electric Truck And Drones In USPS Bid"

  1. Lensman says:

    Well, I admit the idea of using a flying drone to deliver a package by launching from the roof of a postal delivery truck that’s already in the neighborhood, sounds less absurd than Amazon.com using a flying drone to deliver packages by flying from a central location. But still, the idea of a “pilot” working for an organization notorious for overworking and underpaying workers, flying a remotely controlled drone down onto someone’s porch with no warning, seems likely to result in all sorts of problems and accidents, only some of which are likely to be foreseen.

    And even aside from the issue of safety, how well do these drones perform in rain or snow? Subzero cold? What happens when the drone gets into an area with poor radio reception and loses the control signal?

    Maybe someday we’ll see drones actually used to deliver mail to homes. But probably not soon.

    “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” I doubt drones will be that reliable.

  2. Londo Bell says:

    The biggest issue, imho, is the fact that this company, Workhorse Group, and yesterday’s Zap, are both companies with a very short business history (or a bad one). In fact, it is more likely that neither of these 2 will and can survive in the next 20 years, even though the vehicles they bring in may survive longer than them.

  3. Spinning rotors at sidewalk level in a residential neighborhood.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Anon says:

      Clearly, nothing.

      *Sounds of electric weed whackers, people screaming, crowds gasping, and emergency vehicle sirens.*

  4. Rex Wilson says:

    Excellent News. Fedex already operates more than 100 Electric Vans and UPS operates many vans powered by Natgas.

    USPS can make the investment in EVs which will cut their fuel cost drastically.

    Ideally they should give the contract to few companies so that they can get a competitive pricing.

    A Van with 100 mile range should do as it can be charged again during lunch time for another 100 mile of drive in the afternoon.

    1. Anon says:

      And when the power goes out, and it will… You won’t get your mail.

      1. Nick says:

        Don’t optimize for pathologies.

        It would be silly to reject the use of EVs by the post office due to rare power outages.

        Charge from generators or switch delivery to the gas cars when the power is out.

      2. Lensman says:

        And you think you will get your mail if there’s a widespread power outage?

        One of the major problems in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina was that cars ran out of gas. The gas stations all have electric pumps, and when the power goes out… no gas can be dispensed.

        Contrariwise, in that disaster, there were some EVs which drivers were able to recharge at a few places which did have power, such as those with emergency generators.

        If and when the cost/benefit analysis shows that it would be better for UPS, FedEX, and the USPS to switch to electric fleets, you can be sure the first two will do so… and the Post Awful will likely lag behind a few years until the Congressional oversight committee allows them to do so. It would certainly be foolish not to do the right thing just because somebody is worried about what might happen in a disaster!

        1. FME III says:

          “until the Congressional oversight committee allows them to do so.”

          As if. With all the politicians in the pocket of the oil companies, they’ll never get there. Remember the stink Congress raised when the Navy began experimenting with synfuels? There’s clearly a well-founded strategic need to move to securely-sourced, renewable fuels, but all the hawkish national-security-touting politicians were exposed to be exactly what they are — pawns of the oil industry — when push came to shove.

    2. Londo Bell says:

      Rex, there’re lots of differences b/n USPS vs UPS/Fedex, in terms of business operations.

      Although USPS is a “private” company, it’s actually operated under government funding (via Congress), and so constrained by many federal regulations, including its budget, something that UPS/Fedex don’t have to worry about, hence, the (pretty) widespread appearance on clean energy delivery vehicles on the latter 2 companies.

      For example, I don’t think that the condition of “20 years of operation” is part of the sourcing requirement by UPS/Fedex.

      1. Lensman says:

        Londo Bell said:

        “…I don’t think that the condition of ’20 years of operation’ is part of the sourcing requirement by UPS/Fedex.”

        You may be wrong about UPS, at least, according to the following discussion:

        https://www.ar15.com/archive/topic.html?b=1&f=5&t=1262872

        I think overall they’ve got it right. How often do you see a UPS truck that looks new? Those commercial delivery vans look like they’re built to last, unlike ordinary passenger vehicles.

        I don’t know that this counts as more than anecdotal evidence, but according to one post: “…each truck has a service life of 15+ years.”

        1. Londo Bell says:

          Since it’s a forum post, I would say whether it’s a fact or not. The problem here is that this new USPS contract requires to truck to “last” at least 20 years, and that’s – to me anyways – different than “serviceable.” More importantly, we are talking about a price of $25-35K. Those new UPS/Fedex vehicles that I’ve seen with clean fuel/electric technologies – based on what I have read via, say, InsideEVs, cost way more than that price. Heck, take a look at the Chevy Volt. It’s a compact with clean technology at $34K. Prius – about $25K for starter. LEAF – $29K. Even if we look at the cheapest small cargo van, that will be the Chevy City Express, a rebadged Nissan NV200, or the NV200 itself, we are still looking at $21K for starter. Then talk about the conversion from LHD to RHD (a requirement, I think).

          Forgettable it. Most likely, companies who are in the con/scam business can come up with a very attractive price for USPS.

          IOW, if someone can offer a vehicle that lasts so long for such a low price, I sure will try to squeeze my way in with USPS and try to obtain a +1 order!

  5. wavelet says:

    I seriously doubt the drone idea can fly (pun fully intended) under current laws. I’m pretty sure FAA approval will be required, and they’re not going to do it that quickly for several miles away remotely-controlled aircraft capable of 50mph and 10lbs payload… That’s enough to be a small weapons platform.

    There’s lot of potential misuse, including criminal & terrorist, apart from accidents. As it is the FAA takes years to even allow drone use by police & military in civilian areas.

  6. Mister G says:

    Electric mail trucks are a great idea..drones not so much.

  7. rooster says:

    The CNG Mail Trucks work fine, have Clean emissions and we have enough CNG for the next 200 years. Plus CNG trucks are mobile in SNOW. Electric vehicles not so much… THe CNG USPS delivers mail to my residence every day for the past 4 years in a rural route..