Fayetteville Startup’s ‘Sumobiles’ Ease Local Travel

October 14th, 2015 by Gwen Green

SUMO owner and vehicle“These cars are a precursor to the future,” says Bob Munger, co-founder of Sustainable Urban Mobility, or SUMO.

Munger and co-founder Mikel Lolley met at a U.S. Green Building Council Conference five years ago and found that they shared a passion for electric vehicles and car sharing. The two opened their SUMO pay-as-you-go service in Fayetteville this summer.

“Our low-speed electric vehicles provide a convenient and energy-efficient ride to the urban traveler of Fayetteville,” said Munger.

“Our shared vehicle usage plans are perfect for students, Razorback fans on game days, tourists, locals not wanting to shoulder the burden of expensive automobile ownership, and for those just wanting to take a spin around Fayetteville on a pretty day. SUMO even has its own reserved parking lot space on the U of A campus right next to Hillside Auditorium off Dickson Street, available 24/7 at no charge.”

“Sumobiles” are equipped with an on-board computer and GPS system, allowing the driver to send a simple text message of “Start” to the vehicle to reach pre-programmed points of discharge (PODs) downtown and on the university campus. The Sumobiles can travel up to 25 miles per hour, ideal for urban streets. Though they look similar to golf carts, the small vehicles are equipped with blinkers and windshield wipers and are fully licensed.

“The millennial generation has come to view car ownership as a debt burden due to depreciation and insurance issues, and thus SUMO’s offering of a car sharing, pay-as-you-go, by-the-minutes system is very appealing to them financially and from a sustainability perspective. Also, parking issues and car storage issues are alleviated by Sumobile sharing,” said Munger.

“Our biggest challenge opening our business was finding proper insurance since ours is the first car-share of this kind in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the first in the world,” he added.

Bill Fox of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at the University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business consulted with Munger during startup.

“Bill was very helpful to us throughout the startup process,” Munger said. “He helped us create our pro forma documents, such as our three-year cash flow analysis and our profit/loss
projections, that the bank wanted to see. In general, he gave us really good practical small business management advice and was very assuring and always available to answer our questions that came up throughout the process.”

Potential drivers can register online, then book a Sumobile with a one-word text message. Once they have retrieved a vehicle at the SUMO world headquarters, customers drive away on their personal pay-as-you-go minutes plan they set up online. Sumobiles are also available for purchase.

SUMO is located at 492 W. Lafayette St. in a re-purposed intermodal shipping container resting at a former gas station. Learn more at www.sumobility.org or on the company’s Facebook page.

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