Congress must pass $8 Billion USPS electrification proposal to jump-start US EV leadership

Congress must pass $8 Billion USPS electrification proposal to jump-start US EV leadership
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Before taking the F-150 Lightning — the electric version of Ford’s bestselling F-150 pickup — for a spin late last month, President BidenJoe BidenTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden on hecklers: 'This is not a Trump rally. Let 'em holler' MORE took to a podium in the company’s Dearborn plant to declare that the future is electric, and repeat his call for this future to be built here in the United States.

It is not only an economic necessity, but it is a national security imperative to re-shore both the assembly and the supply chain for electric vehicles. Inside every electric vehicle (EV) is a diverse array of minerals, components, batteries and technologies that underpin the EV future — and China currently exerts vast control over every link of these supply chains.

To break this hold and eliminate this national security vulnerability, the United States must move swiftly to electrify large sections of its vehicle fleet, creating the market demand that stimulates upstream investment in this country. The United States Postal Service (USPS) next generation delivery vehicles is a good place to start. The current USPS plan to electrify a mere 10 percent of its new vehicle fleet falls far short of what is needed.

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There is still time for Congress to correct this economic and strategic misstep. Lawmakers have proposed authorizing $8 billion to electrify the service’s delivery vehicles. If passed, 75 percent of replacement vehicles for the current fleet would be electric or zero-emission vehicles, and only electric or zero-emission vehicles would be acquired after 2040.

Another path to the same goal would be for Congress to stipulate that 75 percent of USPS’s new vehicles be electric, as a condition to the $10 billion in COVID-related congressional funding available to the USPS, thus far untouched.

If we hope to lead the global EV transition, and reap the economic and strategic rewards, Congress must seize this opportunity.

China — America’s biggest strategic rival — already dominates the supply chain that will serve as the future of our transportation infrastructure. Today, China controls 70 percent of the world’s lithium supply and 80 percent of the rare earths supply — crucial not only for EVs, but for U.S. weapons systems and other high-tech applications. China produces 83 percent of the anodes and 61 percent of the cathodes used in batteries and makes 75 percent of the permanent magnets needed for EV motors.

Of the 200 battery mega-factories either in operation or in the pipeline today, 148 are or will be in China — compared to just 11 in North America. Without additional action, those North American mega-factories will depend on supply chains that run through Chinese control for both basic materials and assembled components. China’s command of the EV supply chain has already given it a massive advantage in electric vehicle production, with twice as many EVs sold there than in the U.S., and with 421,000 of the 425,000 electric buses in the world in China.

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By electrifying USPS delivery vehicles, the United States will spark investment in charging infrastructure, battery production, technology manufacturing, related industries, and countless supply chains. This new sector will serve as the bedrock for medium and long-term solutions to lead the next generation of transportation and create at least 647,000 American jobs in the process. An electric USPS delivery fleet would help establish a U.S. manufacturing base with the scale to provide electric vans to the huge and growing delivery fleets of Amazon, FedEx, UPS and other delivery services. Several are already experimenting with smaller numbers of electric vans and are ready to scale up to purchase tens of thousands more vehicles.

The United States is in a race with China to lead this transition to an electric transportation future. We must not allow a Chinese choke hold on the materials components and vehicles that will power our 21st-century economy. Electrifying the USPS vehicle fleet can jump-start our EV transition, as we compete with our biggest strategic rival.

Admiral Dennis C. Blair, US Navy (retired) is the former Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Command and former Director of National Intelligence. He serves as chairman of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for leadership in electric transportation as an economic and national security priority.

Robbie Diamond is the president and CEO of SAFE.