Artist rendering of SUMO vehicles at a “multi-modal mobility” hub. (SUMO image)

Electric car-share company to bring 2,000 vehicles to Surrey/White Rock

SUMO is to launch next year with 150 vehicles, and increase to 2,000 by 2022

A South Surrey developer has founded an all-electric car-share company that plans to bring 2,000 shared vehicles to White Rock and Surrey streets.

Raghbir Gurm, who’s behind two multi-unit development proposals in White Rock (Maple and Russell and the Beachway), contacted Peace Arch News to share the launch of Shared Use Mobility Company Inc. (SUMO).

Gurm said it’s the first all-electric car share company in the country, and the first phase of service is to begin in October 2020.

Gurm said the company has paid deposits on 150 Hyundai IONIQ and KONA fully electric vehicles for the launch of the service. He said the plan is to expand to 2,000 all-electric vehicles by 2022.

At the outset, the service is to be based on a round-trip model, with shared vehicles stationed at SUMO branded “multi-modal mobility” hubs.

By 2022, he said, the plan is to transition the service to a free-float model, allowing customers to pick up a vehicle at one location and drop it off at another.

“We will have one (hub) located in South Surrey/White Rock and we will have an operational hub located in Central Surrey area,” Gurm said.

Gurm said that shared mobility only works if there is enough vehicles. The theory, he added, is that a person needs to have a shared vehicle available within a five-minute walk from where they live.

“If you want to go and use a shared vehicle, you’re not going to rely on a shared vehicle and give up your car purchase if there are just a half-dozen vehicles around the whole city,” he added.

There is not yet a shared-vehicle service dedicated to South Surrey or White Rock.

“In the whole of Surrey, there is about 20 shared vehicles and they’re all in Surrey central.”

Drawing from his experience as a developer, particularly the knowledge that some municipalities in the Lower Mainland now require developers to build parking spaces with the capabilities to charge electric vehicles, Gurm said there’s “no point” in launching a service using combustion vehicles.

“Statistics from Vancouver are that one shared vehicle gets used about 20 per cent of the time. If you use that 20 per cent figure with electric vehicles, each vehicle will end up saving four metric tonnes of greenhouse emissions per vehicle. The impact we could have on our air is just phenomenal.”

Gurm said SUMO welcomes other car-share companies to work in South Surrey and White Rock. That is, if they are electric.

“I don’t think we should have car companies come here with combustion solutions. Other car-share companies are not our competitors. Our competitors are, actually, the second car that people buy. Or even the first car, up to a point – that’s our competition.”

Gurm said that in the future, SUMO believes, vehicles will work autonomously.

“Our vision is that when we get to the point where you have a shared vehicle five-minutes walking distance from where you live, in theory, you should be able to go on an app and call the vehicle to come to you. The technology is there, but the law is not there. That’s where the future is.”

Tuesday, Gurm had a meeting with City of White Rock officials, and has already met with the City of Surrey staff. He described both meetings as positive.

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