D ie The decision to tender for the 6.3 billion dollar order (currently the equivalent of around 5.74 billion euros) from the US Post (USPS - United States Postal Service) for new delivery vehicles has been postponed to the coming year 2020. At the moment, it looks like the order will be divided between four company teams.
The autonomous robot delivery vehicles from Ford are also still in the running. The agency responsible for awarding the coveted order has requested from applicants for suggestions regarding autonomous technologies. The so-called RFI (request for information) states that the deliverer should be able to sort and organize the mail while the car is driving autonomously. The RFI emphasizes the monitoring of the environment by the autonomous vehicle and compliance with all safety-relevant standards as a requirement.
Replacement of the Grumman LLV overdue
One thing is certain, the Americans are sidelining a legend : the Grumman LLV. The 140,000 delivery vehicles of the United States Postal Service, USPS for short, which look like white shoe boxes, are due to retire. For a variety of reasons. On the one hand, the average age of the fleet of 28 years is four years above the originally planned age. On the other hand, in the age of hybrid and electric vehicles, pure gasoline engines are no longer portable. A fuel consumption of an average of 24 liters per 100 kilometers is too much for Americans.
In addition to the fuel costs, the USPS, which has 497,157 permanent employees, struggles with huge repair costs per year. A major problem is to find car technicians who know how to repair vehicles, some of which are more than 30 years old. Ten years ago, 470 million euros were due annually. Even then, a complete replacement of the fleet was estimated at 3.76 billion euros. There are also 42 design-related vehicle fires in 2017 alone. As of today (October 4, 2019) there were 25 fires in 2019. Over the past few years, the Grummans LLVs have been replaced by minivans such as the Dodge Caravan Cargo in some regions of the USA. But the majority are still on the road - without air conditioning, airbags or anti-lock braking systems.
Six candidates for the new Postbus
The current tender for 186,000 vehicles at EUR 22,400 to EUR 31,400 each for a Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) amounts to EUR 5.59 billion. No wonder manufacturers are lining up. Six manufacturers were shortlisted on September 22, 2016: AM General, Karsan, Mahindra, Oshkosh, Utilimaster and VT Hackney. Half of the new fleet will have hybrid and other new forms of propulsion. The ground clearance should not be less than 18.5 centimeters and the door width not narrower than 76 centimeters. The total length is limited to 5.84 meters. The decision as to who will be awarded the contract should be made at the beginning of autumn.
The USPS fleet currently consists of 232,372 vehicles. Last year it delivered 146.4 billion letters and 6.2 billion parcels to 158.6 million addresses. The drivers covered a distance of 2.25 billion kilometers (56,220 orbits around the world). At the same time, they emptied 143,000 (blue since 1971) mailboxes (lined up would result in a mailbox queue of 95 kilometers). So it's no wonder that the American postal service handles 47 percent of the world's mail. Last year the company bought 675,000 new tires for its vehicles.
The first E-Postbus drove in 1899
However, the vehicles in the new fleet would not be the first alternative drives in the USPS History. The USPS's first all-electric delivery vehicle drove in Buffalo, New York, on July 2, 1899. With its help, 40 mailboxes could be emptied within 90 minutes - at least half the time it took with a horse-drawn carriage. In 1913 the age of sending parcels began and with it increased demands on performance and payload. The days of the E-Postbus seemed to be over. At that time, electric cars made up six percent of the private vehicle market and 29 percent of company cars in New York. Less than two percent of that fell on the USPS.
Half a century later, in 1959, another test phase followed with 13 electrically powered Mailsters. Two years later, USPS ordered 300 electric mailsters from the Highway Products Company. They made two by 1964Percent of the total of 13,754 Post delivery vehicles. In direct comparison to the gasoline engines, these did not accelerate as quickly and could also only drive 25 instead of 58 km /h. In the early 1970s, all e-vehicles were replaced by jeeps. However, the e-car abstinence did not last long. Because accelerated by oil embargoes and environmental concerns, the USPS bought new Otis, Battronic, Electromotion and Harbilt electric cars a few months later.
Cool design doesn't have to be better
Things continued in 1980 with the order for 375 Commuter vehicles from Florida. 231 were actually delivered to South Florida in 1981. The enthusiasm was quickly followed by disillusionment. In less than a year, the vehicles plagued by engine damage were retired. The remaining 144 copies were never delivered. In the early 1990s, the company started another e-expansion of its fleet. The first models came from Ford. Six Ecostar vans started their test phase in Huntington Beach, California. What followed were ten test vehicles based on the Grumman LLV.
The triumphant advance of the Grumman LLV
Since 1987, the examples that are still in motion have been part of the cityscape of every American city. The vehicles from the manufacturer Grumman, which look like moving, white mailboxes, were once designed for a very long life and therefore also bear the segment name LLV for Long Life Vehicle. The first generation of Grumman LLV vehicles, which were produced in Montgomery, Pennsylvania from 1987 to 1994, are so famous that the first model built on July 11, 1987 with the easy-to-read serial number 7200001 is on display at the Smithsonian Institute.
The Postbuses, which are 4.46 meters long, 1.90 meters wide, 2.20 meters high and have a wheelbase of 2.55 meters, are powered by a GM Iron Duke inline four-cylinder with a displacement of 2.5 liters . A three-speed automatic takes over the power distribution. The performance of the water-cooled unit is between 83 and 108 hp. The maximum torque is between 167 and 183 Newton meters. Round140,000 of these vehicles left the Montgomery plant, at times 100 per day. The driver of the LLV sits close to the curb and letterbox on the right-hand side. On the passenger side (left) there is a large metal table with three letter compartments. In total, the 1,361 kilogram LLV can load 907 kilograms. Its chassis is made of stainless aluminum.
Before Grumman Corporation's received the order to build the Postbuses, the selection process was tough to go through. Because the new vehicles had to significantly outperform the previous model, a Jeep DJ-5. The following requirements had to be met:
- Drive 9,270 kilometers on an 8.0-kilometer-long, cordoned-off asphalt stretch at a speed of 80 to 89 km /h
- Drive 18,540 kilometers on a gravel road at 48 to 73 km /h
- Drive 4,635 kilometers on a road with hard shoulder, on which you stop every 76 meters and accelerate again up to 24 km /h.
- Drive 1,545 kilometers over potholes at 16 to 23 km /h - making sure that each bike goes through a pothole 35,000 times
- Make 100 consecutive stops at 24 speed
In 1999 the postal service ordered a further 500 electric vehicles from Ford. 480 of the vehicles based on the Ranger model were used in California. But also vehicles of the Ford Explorer type drove purely electrically from mailbox to mailbox. Their range of around 60 kilometers was obviously sufficient for a full day of service. A total of twelve Daimler-Chrysler Epic minivans rolled through Harbor City. A nice idea in itself. The only thing that was a thorn in the side of those responsible was that the acquisition costs were almost twice as high as a combustion vehicle.