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SÜMO: America's First Low-Speed Carshare Program

By Bill Moore

Two part video interview with SUMO co-founder Bob Munger who sits down via Skype with EV World's Bill Moore to talk about America's first low-speed electric vehicle carshare program in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

When I hear the term 'sumo', I immediately think of those monster wrestlers in Japan, who clothed only in a loin cloth, face off in a ring, ritually stomp a foot in the dust, and then crash into each other like a pair of bull moose in rut.

SÜMO, located in the university town of Fayetteville, Arkansas, isn't that kind of 'sumo.' The name is an acronym for 'sustainable urban mobility.' Co-founded by architect Bob Munger, it is the first carshare system in America, at least that he and I are aware of, based on low-speed electric vehicles; another name being NEV's, short for 'neighborhood electric vehicles.' Whatever you call them, they are the most ubiquitous type of electric car on the planet. Literally in their millions, they are mainly found on golf courses and within many planned retirement communities from Florida to Arizona.

Make no mistake, however, they are not golf cars or carts, take your pick. They are a special class of motor vehicles created by act of Congress. They are designed to be operable both on the links and on neighborhood streets, usually with speed limits of 35 mph or less.

What Munger and his co-founder Mikel Lolley launched just a little over a month ago is an affordable carshare system not created around expensive EVs like the Nissan LEAF or Smart electric car, but around two models of LSEVs supplied by EZ-Go and STARev, each costing under $10,000.

Their concept is simple: strategically place their low-speed NEVs around the urban and university core of Fayetteville, AR (pop. 78,960) for use by their members. In theory, this should reduce the number of cars both on campus and around the downtown area. Members are charged in 5-minute increments starting at $1.50US. At the moment, the company has some 60 members and 15 vehicles. They use a relatively simple SMS messaging system to reserve and unlock cars, which are located at what are called PODs for 'point of discharge,' which are located at various businesses around the city core.

In this two-part video interview with EV World publisher Bill Moore, Munger talks about why he and Lolley started the business, the challenges it has presented, and what their longer term goal is - hint, it has to do with on-demand mobility. He also talks about his customers and the vehicles SÜMO operates. Ironically, the company is housed in a 40 ft shipping container, itself positioned under the canopy of an old, 1930's style gasoline service station (see above photo). What the two are hoping to capitalize on are three trends: the growth of a shared economy, the trend away from individual vehicle ownership, and increased urbanization, while also believing that it will be such low-speed EVs that will be the true disruptors of the automotive world in the coming decades.

Video Part 1

Video Part 2

Times Article Viewed: 972
Originally published: 30 Jul 2015

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