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."