America’s fleet of postal service trucks seem pretty mundane. However, with the right technology, those white, rectangular trucks could help bring more renewable energy to the grid. PJM Interconnection, a regional electricity transmission organization (RTO) that transmits electricity to 13 states and the District of Columbia, came up with a strategy to turn postal service trucks, school buses and garbage trucks into grid storage mechanisms. If all these fleet vehicles were electric, they could store grid energy in their batteries during off-peak hours. Not only would that increase grid reliability, it would help bring more power from wind and solar online.
As the grid exists now, electricity usage and generation must occur simultaneously. That’s a major obstacle for incorporating more renewable power, since wind and solar produce power sporadically. Vehicle-to-grid technology uses EVs’ batteries to store power and feed it back into the grid when cars aren’t in use. If all of America’s postal trucks, garbage trucks and school buses stored power while parked in parking lots during off-hours, it could bring a ton of renewable energy online and balance load and generation.
Not only would this scheme bring greater amounts of renewable energy online, it could also help out the struggling postal system: Utilities and RTOs pay for the vehicles’ power that’s sold back to the grid. If all of the US Postal Service’s 144,000 vehicles plugged in for 12 overnight hours each day, the service could rake in $237 million to $378 million a year! Plus, according to a recent study, if 3,000 postal vehicles went electric, it would save the government $1,500 per vehicle in gas costs each year.
A major hurdle to overcome in order to make this vision a reality is securing funding to replace these fleets with EVs. But pending legislation could help: In December, US Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) introduced a bill that would require the Department of Energy to work with the US Postal Service to manufacture, test and deliver 20,000 electric fleet vehicles. We’ll have to stay tuned to see what becomes of the pending legislation, but the whole idea is certainly an interesting one.