The U.S. Postal Service will award $37.4 million to six companies, who will combine to build 50 prototype mail delivery vehicles over the next year in hopes of winning a multi-billion vehicle contract from the agency.
The companies were whittled down from 15 that pre-qualified following last year's launch of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicles acquisition program to replace the USPS' aging vehicle fleet.
The recipients include Humvee-maker AM General, Turkish automaker Karsan, Indian manufacturing giant Mahindra, defense contractor Oshkosh Corp., prior Postal Service contractor Utilimaster and truck maker VT Hackney.
Once the 50 vehicles are delivered — in about a year's time — the USPS will test them in a variety of conditions over a six-month period.
The prototypes will feature a range of vehicle sizes, drive configurations and powertrains; half will include "hybrid and new technologies, including alternative fuel capabilities."
"Our goal is to obtain vehicles that will help us provide reliable and efficient delivery service for customers and honor our commitment to reducing the environmental impact of our fleet, while meeting the needs of our employees to best do their jobs safely," the Postal Service said in a statement.
The USPS also anticipated that the six finalists would subcontract with additional companies to produce the new vehicles.
VT Hackney, for one, is partnering with electric truck maker Workhorse Group to develop its chassis and powertrain. Workhorse last year suggested that its trucks could serve as docking stations for delivery drones.
Karsan, meanwhile, entered into a joint venture with REV Group, a Milwaukee-based manufacturer that will build its prototypes.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the final $6.3 billion contract could bring 1,000 jobs to a former Milwaukee auto plant if Karsan's bid wins out.
The USPS also announced a request for proposals to supply "commercial off-the-shelf, right-hand drive delivery vehicles" to the agency.
"The Postal Service seeks to explore a wide variety of available options during this research phase, and will evaluate any commercial off-the-shelf vehicles proposed ... as we continue to assess the delivery fleet mix," the USPS said.