The United States government operates a fleet of about 645,000 vehicles, from mail delivery trucks to military vehicles and passenger cars. On Monday, President Joe Biden announced that his administration intends to replace them all with American-made, electric alternatives.
Biden shared the plan as part of a press conference detailing his “Buy American” executive order, which he said would represent “the largest mobilization of public investment and procurement, infrastructure and R&D since World War II.”
No timeline was given for when the conversion to an all-electric fleet might be completed, though Biden detailed that this would help realize his goal to create a million new jobs in the automotive sector, one he related on the campaign trail. From Monday’s conference:
“The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America, by American workers, creating a million auto worker jobs in clean energy and vehicles that are net-zero emissions.”
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The U.S. government’s Federal Fleet Report states that its vehicles traveled 4.5 billion miles and cost more than $4.3 billion to run in 2019, the last year on record.
Between 2015 and 2019, the portion of the fleet consisting of electric vehicles has grown, though not significantly. In 2015, the government-operated 357,610 gasoline vehicles and 3,896 electric ones; in 2019, those numbers grew to 368,807 and 4,475, respectively. That’s excluding the tens of thousands of E-85 and diesel-based vehicles on the road, which, together, comprise nearly a third of the 645,047 total.
So, yeah, there’s certainly a lot of work to do, and it’s hard to imagine the changeover could even happen within Biden’s current term. Still, electric vehicle manufacturers and their investors are likely salivating at the opportunity, as Fox Business reports shares of Tesla, Workhorse, and Lordstown were all up between four and nine percent in pre-market trading on Tuesday.
The Biden administration’s plan bears special significance to the United States Postal Service, which currently operates well over 100,000 Northrop Grumman Long Life Vehicles manufactured between 1987 and 1994. Last year, Motherboard reported that 407 LLVs had been damaged or destroyed in fires since 2014, and investigators were unable to determine why. Age is suspected to be the culprit, especially because the USPS only expected to use these trucks for 24 years on average.
Which trucks will replace them? That’s not yet clear, though there are a number of companies out there focusing on electric commercial vehicles champing at the bit to ink the contract, including Workhorse, which formally entered a bid last year according to Trucks.com.
That’s to say nothing of established American automakers, like Ford and General Motors, that could fight for a slice of the pie. The Blue Oval revealed its all-electric replacement for its Transit van, the E-Transit, late last year, which targets a greatly reduced cost of ownership compared to gas-powered vans. Then there’s GM’s BrightDrop, which is already courting private delivery companies like FedEx.
It’s hard to be overly enthusiastic about this initiative without specifics, though to even hear a U.S. President say it in the first place is moderately comforting. Let’s see how it plays out.