Over the past year, momentum has been picking up behind the push for the United States Postal Service (USPS) to go electric. Just last month, Democratic leaders united to support a White House policy for $8 billion of funding for the latest iteration of an electric mail truck.
This motion is supported more widely in government. Shortly after being announced as the nominee for Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg tweeted: “To meet the climate crisis, we must put millions of new electric vehicles on America’s roads.”
So, how can we make this happen?
There is just one clear piece missing from the conversation so far, and that is a focus on light electric vehicles (LEVs). LEVs are electrified two- and three-wheel vehicles. As Mike Granoff, managing partner at Maniv Mobility, a leading early stage automotive sector VC, has said: “Electrification is about more than cars.”
The barrier to USPS’s electrification is, apparently, a lack of funding. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy described the charging stations and infrastructure necessary for electric vehicles as being too expensive for the current USPS budget. What this perspective fails to recognize is that LEVs are far cheaper than electric cars and trucks. Even beyond the fact that LEVs don’t require charging stations and additional infrastructure, purchasing an e-bike costs less than one-third of the cost of a truck. And that doesn’t even account for the lifetime cost savings associated with truck ownership, including gas, insurance, parts, and so on.
In Australia, government-owned Australia Post has increased its use of e-bikes for the past six years and has noted a 100% uptick in efficiency as well as a lessened environmental impact. The impact on carbon reduction is clear, with one study showing that just one e-bike can provide an average reduction of 225 kilograms of CO2 per year.
The role that LEVs can play in lightening traffic in urban environments is also a major benefit. Micromobility is a key part of a cleaner future and an even more crucial part of a future in which consumers expect faster delivery times than ever before. It’s for precisely this reason that we’re seeing such significant uptake across logistics operations in America. Beyond DoorDash, Gopuff, and Uber, global conglomerates such as Amazon are catching onto this, using e-bikes as a way to hit faster delivery times in densely populated areas.
In December, the city of New York greenlit a trial of e-cargo bikes in Manhattan for big logistics companies including UPS, Amazon, and DHL, marking a significant shift for the distribution and logistics industry as companies look to figure out how to sort and deliver packages to customers faster. These companies are no doubt experiencing not only cost savings, but improved speed of delivery. Data from Zoomo logistics customer partners shows their deliveries are 30% faster on e-bikes than any other form of transport in New York and California.
In dense urban environments where the distance between the distribution center and the mailbox is less than 50 miles, e-bikes make complete sense. USPS refers to these as local, Zone 1 deliveries and a report from USPS indicates that 50 miles is the typical travel distance one of their vehicles will travel.
Of course, e-bikes will not work in every context. Every fleet will have a mix of vehicle types to suit different use cases. However, if we are to reach a more environmentally friendly, electrified future, we cannot continue to ignore LEVs as part of this major government fleet. USPS cannot expect to meet the demand for a cleaner future—while managing cost—without them.
Mina Nada is the cofounder and CEO of Zoomo.