D.I.Y Gone Postal

by Jack Sommer

There are plenty of companies making electric cars and trying to figure out new ways to get a piece of the cake. In Germany, a surprising innovator in the field has emerged - their national post office. Duetsche Post AG's involvement was born out of a gap they recognized in the market. They couldn't find a delivery van that was zero-emission and met all their needs. So, acting like a startup out of Palo Alto, they decided to make one themselves.

The "StreetScooters" vans are a bold yellow e-vehicle that can travel around 50 miles per charge (to put that into some perspective: one driver who was an early tester of the van only had a 12 mile route). Minimalistic in its design - with no passenger seat, air conditioning, or radio - it's sleek design and electric nature has proved to be popular. So much so that the post office is even going to be selling them soon, proving to be an unlikely auto-industry competitor.

“It’s extremely annoying to me," said Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller. “I am asking myself why Deutsche Post didn’t work with us on this." Maybe because, like many other startup cases, they wanted to get something made to support their own business. They felt they could do it better themselves and do it faster, easier, cheaper than anyone else.

After 2,500 units sold, the Deutsche Post says it'll already break even on the project. They're planning to make 10,000 annually starting this year raise that to 15,000 if need be. They're also going to electrify the rest of their nearly 100,000 global car fleet and may very well become their own biggest customer. This will put the StreetScooter as the top electrified light commercial vehicle in Europe, if all goes to plan. Not bad for a government-run post office that recognized that delivering packages required a bootstrapping approach with innovative results.