As reported in Le Monde, after extensive study, the French postal system is undertaking a shift toward extensive use of electric vehicles for mail delivery.
Currently, 60,000 of French mailmen (and women) deliver mail by bicycle (the classic Jaune — yellow — of La Poste). These will be transitioned to electric assisted bicycles and, to a lesser extent, electric carts.
Many of the 30,000 who deliver by vehicle will also be transitioned to electric vehicles. First priority will be to transitioning in “Pieton” (pedestrian only) areas. The biggest problem in the transition:
In a dense urban environment, this is truly the ideal vehicle … One must simply pay attention because its silent operating is such that pedestrians don’t hear them.
La Poste investest some 200 million euros in studying options, with involvement of doctors, ergonomic specialists, technical specialists, legal (“juristes), and — one would hope — delivery personnel. Writ large, the electric choices were driven by many factors, but concern over the environment not least among them.
One small truck (camionette), the Cleanova (Dassault) will reduce by 3 tonnes CO2 emissions per year per vehicle it replaces.
One additional factor was medical. While we might associated riding bicycles with good health (EXERCISE), there are those with health problems for which this is too much (and, not just the pedaling, but the 150 times off/on the bicycle per day). Thus, the first to receive these electric bikes will be those with medical problems.
Delivery fleets like those of post offices are an electric starting point for a transition toward electric vehicles. With regenerative braking systems, such as used in hybrids, these stop-start vehicles, that travel limited (and known) distances each day and return to a central parking every night to power up from off-peak power generation are the perfect early adopters of pure electric systems. This has been attempted in the past in the United States and the Post Office has experimented with natural gas, hydrogen, and other options.
Now is the time to return to the past option of all-electric vehicle for mail delivery through much of the United States.
NOTE: For discussions of the progress of this, check the stories at Green Car Congress which, if you are not aware of it, is an excellent site to track developments re transportation and renewable energy.
NOTE II: There is no such thing as a Silver Bullet. There is, however, the value and importance of moving the transportation system — at least partially — into the electric world. For me, I am becoming enamoured with plug-in, serial, light-weight (composite material) hybrid flex-fuel vehicles as a path toward radically changing the transportation system. Thoughts? Reactions? Vehicles along these lines would require minimum change to the infrastructure while offering the opportunity to drive with renewable energy (solar, wind, tidal + biofuels).