New car sharing company set to open in Fayetteville

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 334 views 

A new form of city transportation, building on the notions of sustainability and car sharing, is coming to Fayetteville and owners are banking on local residents using low speed electric vehicles for short trips around downtown or to the University of Arkansas.

Sustained Urban Mobility (SUMO), with its “Benign Disruption," plans to open May 1 at the northeast corner of Lafayette and West streets, one block north of Dickson Street, said co-owner MIkel Lolley. A white brick building stands at the corner, once the site of filling station. Lolley said he and his partner, Bob Monger, entered a land lease with the building’s owner, Eric Close. They plan to bring in a 40-foot shipping container to put under the awning, which will serve as the office.

Lolley said the two met about six years at a green building conference where the idea was originally hatched, and since has grown into a full-scale business model. 

The low speed electric vehicles — described by Lolley as “souped up, street legal golf carts” — are governed to move at a top speed of 25 miles per hour. The company also has 14 of the low speed electric vehicles; an electric Toyota; and a four-door sedan. The vehicles are small and agile and “can turn on a dime,” he said. The vehicle averages about 40 miles per charge; the four-door sedan has a range of about 70 miles. 

He said the initial investment has been about $250,000, mostly for equipment.

The concept is similar to the international Car2Go (, which started in 2008 in Ulm, Germany and is now in 29 European, Canadian and U.S. cities, such as Washington, D.C., Columbus, Denver, Miami and San Diego, to mention a few, with more than one million memberships worldwide. It’s simple process: A user buys a cost efficient membership and uses the membership card to access the vehicle, drive from point A to B, then park the car. The cost is based on the minutes the car is in motion. No reservation is required and you don’t have to return the car where you picked it up. The preferred model of car is the Smart Car.

Lolley said his business model is similar to Car2Go. 

“Car sharing has been around for 20 years. The difference is ours is a low speed electric car share for members only and offering free parking,” he said.

The company is negotiating with the University of Arkansas and businesses around Fayetteville to establish parking pods for the vehicles that will allow the user to park for free. The pods will be striped with signage and charging stations. Lolley estimated a typical parking space could accommodate three of the vehicles. 

In Fayetteville, the plan has been in testing since last December. The partners conducted five focus groups, reaching about 50 participants. For their participation, they will be the first members and have earned credits to use the service. Driving record checks have been conducted on about 30 people.

Each low speed electric vehicle has been equipped with a GPS antenna to keep track of the vehicles. Payment for rental will be made through PayPal once the membership is set up. Lolley said charges will be based on the number of minutes a vehicle is in use, estimating the cost will be about $1.50 for a five-minute trip. 

Lolley and Monger also are authorized dealers for The Star EV, a low-speed electric vehicle manufactured in China and the Cushman EZ Go, a similar model. They range in price from $9,500 to $10,500. To special order either model takes six to eight weeks for delivery.

“We have seen a lot of interest elsewhere, such as in Colorado, Georgia and Hawaii,” Lolley said, noting he has owned a low-speed electric vehicle for about a year.

He estimated he is saving about $3 or more in fuel costs every time he drives it over his pickup truck. He drives the vehicle from his home in downtown Fayetteville to Fayetteville Athletic Club at Zion and Crossover roads a 20-mile round trip, and has been doing so for nearly a year.

“Only one person has honked,” he said. “We’re not trying to replace the family car. I have a passion for sustainability. We see a future in this, particularly with millennials.”