Sunday, 9 October 2016

US Postal set for hybrid delivery vans?

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is set to examine the use of hybrid delivery vans as part of its Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDV) programme which has just kicked off.
After a “rigorous” evaluation process, in which potential suppliers were given access to the USPS’s processing, delivery environment and employees the service has awarded contracts to six prime vehicle suppliers which it has selected.
They will produce together provide 50 prototype vehicles as part of the next phase of the next generation deliver vehicle (NGDV) acquisition process.
That US pos used the word 'selected' implies the original list might have been longer. It would be interesting to know which other potential suppliers were on the original list.
The six selected suppliers include AM General, Karsan, Mahindra, Oshkosh, Utilimaster, and VT Hackney. The contract awards are valued at $37.4 million.
The suppliers also have the discretion to team or subcontract with additional suppliers, and it is anticipated some will do so to develop the finished prototypes.
Half of the prototypes will feature hybrid and new technologies, including alternative fuel capabilities. The prototypes will represent a variety of vehicle sizes and drive configurations, in addition to advanced powertrains and a range of hybrid technologies.
The suppliers have one year from contract award to develop and produce their prototypes. The USPS then plans to test the vehicles over a period of six months in a range of different climates, topography, population centers and delivery environments.
USPS claims tests will help demonstrate the ability of the proposed designs to meet our operational needs, including the need to deliver to mailboxes across the United States.
Along with the prototype selection, the Postal Service is also announcing a forthcoming Request for Proposals (RFP) for commercial off-the-shelf, right-hand-drive delivery vehicles. USPS says it will “explore a wide variety of available options” during this research phase, and will evaluate any commercial off-the-shelf vehicles proposed as a result of this RFP as we continue to assess the delivery fleet mix.
USPS says its announcement represents a significant step in the learning and development phase that will lead to a multi-year acquisition process. The lessons learned from this process will help inform the future production programme, it adds.
The aim is for vehicles that can provide reliable and efficient delivery service for customers and “honour our commitment to reducing the environmental impact of our fleet, while meeting the needs of our employees to best do their jobs safely.”
The Postal Service currently operates a diverse fleet including left-hand drive, multiple sized and alternative fuel vehicles. In addition to the NGDV process and the commercial, off-the-shelf, right-hand-drive RFP, USPS deploys commercially-available vehicles including cargo vans and mixed delivery vehicles on an ongoing basis to supplement delivery needs.
COMMENT. The question has to be raised: why does the USPS need to go through the process of building special-purpose vehicles when it could just as easily, and more quickly and more cheaply purchase vans from Fiat Chrysler Automotive, Ford Motor Company and General Motors? Not to mention other companies. For example, the Ford Transit is available in the US from Turkey; the Volkswagen Crafter is likewise available as is the Mercedes-Benz (Freightliner) Sprinter. And from Fiat there is the Ducato. It is even possible that Vivaro vans built by VVauxhall in the UK could be submitted as potential candidates; or even the larger Movano.
Any one of these automakers could quickly ‘knock up’ some prototypes for evaluation. Or indeed, supply a vehicle straight off the production line. For these 'panel' vans - or cargo vans as they are called in North America - would prove more than adequate for the purpose that US Post has in mind. And they would, presumably, be cheaper. Over the years, these European 'panel' vans have grown in their internal volume as the sides of the vans have moved outwards to create more space.
Perhaps USPS vehicles have to undergo more rigorous use in daily life, face greater ill treatment and are required to have a longer service life than bog-standards made at high rates on a production line. At one time, aluminium was a favoured material for chassis members because of its 'non rust' features, but modern steels are more than capable of offering the long life required by the USPS.
Perhaps USPS has a more demanding engineering specification requiring special features. It has to be assumed that the resulting low-volume, high-specification vehicles will probably cost twice that of a production line unit. But maybe the end result is worth it. On the other hand, the brown liveried vans used by UPS (United Parcel Service) are quite crude in their construction (although in Europe UPS uses Mercedes-Benz chassis) with their use of aluminium chassis. So it really will be interesting to see what the forthcoming design proposals throw up.
More than likely these six companies will have to use ‘standard’ powertrain as well as maybe some ‘home grown’ ones also. Is it really likely within the allocated time period they will be able to create fully developed hybrid vehicles? We shall see.

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