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USPS is about to plug into electric mail carriers, thanks to Biden administration

The Biden administration will convert the entire fleet of federal vehicles to American-made EVs, and that will mean finally saying goodbye to the Grumman LLV.

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USPS truck

The Grumman LLV is out and EVs are in, America.

Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

The boxy, right-hand-drive trucks that deliver mail all across the US have a name: the Grumman Long Life Vehicle. But, as quickly as you may have learned its name, you'll soon need to forget it. On Tuesday, President Biden signed an executive order mandating the federal government to convert its entire vehicle fleet to electric vehicles. And that means, folks, the United States Postal Service is going electric.

This is a massive opportunity to boost efficiency when it comes to the USPS and its very old, very tired and incredibly unreliable fleet of Grumman trucks. The vehicles are battle-tested, that's for sure, but their life expectancy was only supposed to be 24 years. That's already incredibly old for any vehicle driven at extensive length like a mail carrier. However, the average length of time one of the LLVs roamed US roads is actually 28 years. Many individual vehicles are over 30 years old, and they return an estimated 10 miles per gallon.

The USPS was already prepping to replace the LLVs even before the Biden administration took office, but the new administration tossed decision-makers a curveball: they'll have to be battery-electric vehicles. The agency has remained rather quiet on the process since the start of its search in 2015, but three leading contenders remain, at least to public knowledge. The first is Oshkosh, which proposed a gasoline-powered mail carrier. By the Biden administration's order for EVs, it appears the company is now out of the running. The second is Karsan, which proposed a plug-in hybrid mail carrier. One, it's not an EV, and two, the company is Turkish, so it would seem that it's out of the running as well.

That brings us to Workhorse, part of a company you may know by now: Lordstown Motors. The startup based in Lordstown, Ohio now owns the intellectual property associated with Workhorse's bid for battery-electric mail carriers. Its local US footprint and the fact it proposed an EV from the beginning seem to indicate it's in a good position for the USPS contract. Lordstown Motors did not immediately return a request for comment on where its bid stands with the USPS.

The USPS directed Roadshow to the latest public statement surrounding the search for a replacement vehicle, but did not comment on the Biden administration's EV mandate. The agency said this past December it's nearing the end of the extensive process and said the coronavirus pandemic delayed a contract award to a finalist. Now, we should expect a final decision between now and March of this year.

Outside of any additional delays, we could know in just a month or so what vehicles will soon parade around US streets carrying postal workers -- and the mail. Whatever shape they take, you can count on the fact that USPS' transportation will produce zero emissions.

Correction: An earlier version of this story attributed the $500m fueling costs of the federal mail carrier vehicle fleet to US taxpayers, but that expense is fully covered by postage fees.