Postal Service converts mail-delivery van to hybrid technology

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At a ceremony last week at the Boston General Mail facility, the U.S. Postal Service launched the first conversion of a mail-delivery van into a hybrid-electric vehicle.

The hybrid-electric mail-delivery van will be monitored in regular service — delivering mail to Boston-area homes and businesses — to determine its potential for emissions reduction and fuel-economy improvements. It was converted by Azure Dynamics, a Boston-based developer of electric and hybrid-electric powertrain systems. Based on the company’s other hybrid applications, and depending on the vehicle and its duty cycle, Azure officials expect fuel-economy improvements to be in the range of 30 to 50 percent.

“As an agency that delivers mail to 145 million businesses and households six days a week, drives approximately 1.1 billion miles a year, and consumes more than 125 million gallons of motor fuel annually, we are in a unique position to demonstrate to the public and other businesses the growing viability and positive environmental and energy-savings benefits of alternate-fuel technologies,” says Walter O’Tormey, vice president of engineering for the U.S. Postal Service. O’Tormey spoke to an audience of nearly 100 industry representatives, environmentalists and Postal Service employees.

The Postal Service has been testing alternate-fuel vehicles for several years now, and operates the largest alternative-fuel fleet in the nation — 30,000 vehicles. The fleet includes compressed-natural gas, propane, ethanol, biodiesel and electric vehicles.