The U.S. Postal Service plans to identify new, more environmentally friendly vehicle technologies that are less dependent on petroleum-based fuel sources to replace the 195,000 neighborhood delivery vehicles of its total 220,000 vehicles, the world�s largest civilian fleet. Today�s announcement came during a ceremony in which General Motors presented a Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicle to the Postal Service for testing in a mail-delivery environment.

�We are looking for a vehicle that operates from a fuel source that reduces�or eliminates�our dependence on petroleum products, that is good for the environment, good for our customers and good for the Postal Service,� said Walter O�Tormey, vice president, Engineering, as he accepted the keys to the Equinox Fuel Cell that will be tested in Irvine, CA.

Moving forward with non-petroleum fueled vehicles is more important to the Postal Service than ever, O�Tormey said, since a one-cent increase in a gallon of fuel adds $8 million annually to Postal Service expenses. Fuel costs last year were $1.7 billion and are expected to increase this year by $600 million. 

�The Postal Service has been an invaluable partner, and they put our fuel cell vehicles through some tough, daily workouts,� said Mary Beth Stanek, director of energy and environmental policy & commercialization at General Motors. �We are gaining valuable insight on how these vehicles perform in demanding, real-world situations. By participating in Project Driveway, the Postal Service also is demonstrating the need to develop a hydrogen infrastructure to support fueling these vehicles.�

A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine and is unique in that the fuel cell emits only water vapor which doesn�t harm the environment. Hydrogen�s greatest advantage as a fuel is that it can be made in many ways using both traditional and renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and biomass energy.

�We are very encouraged by GM�s fuel cell technology,� O�Tormey added. �We also want to explore other options, such as hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid and other �green� vehicles that will help us continue to provide our customers with reliable service while protecting the environment.�

The Postal Service leads the federal government in the number of alternate fuel vehicles it uses. More than 43,000 can operate on hybrid-electric, electric, compressed natural gas, liquid propane gas, ethanol (E-85), biodiesel and hydrogen fuel cell.