Finding a place to charge your electric vehicle on a road trip could be as easy as locating the nearest post office under a plan Democrats are pitching.
The idea aims to address concerns about establishing an equitable and efficient way to dole out billions of dollars toward a network of charging stations, lawmakers say. Members of Congress, the administration, and the U.S. Postal Service have all had discussions about the idea.
“If we make every post office a charging station, it’s a place where people know it’s located,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), who has been promoting the idea, said in an interview. “Say for instance you’re going down Route 66, anytime you get to a small town, if you need to refuel, you’ll just have to look up the post office and there it is.”
USPS has more than 31,000 retail offices nationwide, “so it gives us an opportunity to check that box, get into those remote and small communities that we know we need the infrastructure of charging stations,” said Lawrence, who held various roles in the USPS before serving in Congress.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill (H.R. 3684) slated for a House vote next month includes $7.5 billion for charging infrastructure. Democrats are also planning to include climate and electrification spending in the $3.5 trillion package they plan to enact using reconciliation, a procedure that bypasses the need for Republican votes. The Biden administration has set a goal of rolling out 500,000 charging stations by 2030.
Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), co-chair of the House Auto Caucus, said she supports Lawrence’s idea.
“We already own the property, the postal service has these vehicles and we could make them available to the public as well,” Kaptur said at a recent event.
Lawrence said she talked about the plan with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who was “excited about it.” The Department of Energy confirmed Lawrence and Granholm spoke about the idea.
The postal service, an independent agency, has engaged with policymakers “enthusiastically and substantively” on several vehicle electrification topics, including the role it could play in public-facing charging stations, said Kim Frum, a senior public relations representative at USPS.
Frum said USPS’s first priority is to complete the modernization of its mail delivery fleet, including the deployment of electric delivery vehicles and their charging infrastructure.
“From there, we can determine whether the Postal Service can reasonably contribute to public-facing charging in select locations,” Frum said in an email, adding that public chargers would require additional financial support from Congress.
USPS in February awarded Oshkosh Corp. a 10-year contract over competitor Workhorse Group Inc. to manufacture as many as 165,000 vehicles, including some electric.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said he expects broad Democratic support for including funding for electrification of the postal fleet in the reconciliation package. Huffman introduced a bill (H.R. 1636) in March to authorize $6 billion to electrify the postal fleet, with funding for both vehicles and charging.
“You have to include the charging infrastructure and frankly that’s part of the golden opportunity we have here,” he said in an interview. “As American car companies and other car companies move towards electrification, rural communities need this infrastructure, and what better place than at postal facilities that are in every community.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org