While the USPS currently has a fleet of 163,000 right-hand drive delivery vehicles, the design is dated at best. The familiar “Long Life Vehicle” design was created 27 years ago and it’s age is showing. As the vehicle’s age they are increasingly expensive to maintain, to make matters worse, these trucks average only about 9 or 10 miles per gallon. In 2014, the USPS spent well over a half billion dollars on gasoline alone. The USPS is now taking bids from companies for a new, updated delivery vehicle.
… on January 20, 2015, the postal service asked companies to submit bids for new delivery vehicles at $25,000 to $35,000 apiece. Considering that they are looking to purchasing 180,000 of these vehicles, this will be a government contract worth $4.5 to $6.3 billion to whoever wins it. Needless to say, they have received bids from several big automakers: Ford, Nissan, Fiat Chrysler, etc… But they also received a bid from a company called Workhorse Group Inc. (formerly AMP Holding). Developed in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati, Workhorse’s bid offers an all-electric truck… that also has the ability to launch drones.
This electric truck design, also called “Workhorse” carries an octocopter drone named “Horsefly”. Horsefly can be launched from the truck and used to deliver the mail. It is able to carry a 10 pound package and travel at a top speed of 50 mph. However, one of the drawbacks of small electric drones like Horsefly is their relatively short battery life (of 20-30 minutes). Workhorse has overcome this hurdle by giving their truck the ability to recharge the drone once it returns from a delivery.
While not the first drone based postal delivery service, the Workhorse team seems confident of the value proposition their solution can offer.
“We feel very confident that our integrated drone technology on top of our electric truck is the best solution for the Postal Service as well as give them the lowest total cost of ownership for their truck needs and their future drone needs,” said Duane Hughes, director of sales at Workhorse Group, Inc.
How cost effective is an all electric delivery vehicle? How cost effective is an electric/drone hybrid delivery vehicle? According to a recent Drone HQ article on the subject:
- Delivery cost via diesel-powered delivery truck: about $1 per mile
- Delivery cost via electric-powered delivery truck: 30 cents per mile
- Estimated delivery cost via Horsefly aerial drone: 3 cents per mile
The likelihood that the USPS will go with a company like Workhorse over Ford or Nissan is slim to none, but fact that an all electric truck, capable of drone delivery drone deployment, is even in the mix is amazing.