An interesting thing is happening in Wilmington, NC. An entirely emissions-free transportation company has flourished, growing in two years from one cart serving the immediate downtown area to four carts serving the entire historic downtown region.
For Cartmen, the only nonprofit provider of electronic vehicle transportation and delivery in the state of North Carolina, business is booming.
“We’re introducing neighborhood vehicles into the marketplace as an alternative mode of transportation,” said Bryan Metzger, owner and operator of Cartmen. “I think our country is ready for an environmentally-friendly transportation system.”
The 42-year-old Wilmington resident has a vision for the company and says all he needs is additional funding to expand to other North Carolina cities, including Greenville, Chapel Hill, Asheville and more.
Cartmen is filling a niche market with its free shuttle and delivery service within downtown Wilmington.
Other services include fetching items from your home, holding parking spots while customers drive the distance with the assurance of getting a great parking space, even walking your dog while you’re at work or school.
“We’re at the call of anybody that wants anything,” said Cartmen driver Zach Carpino. “That’s what makes us unique.”
Elisita McCauley, an 84-year-old downtown resident who began using Cartmen services nine months ago when her car stopped working, calls the service “incredible.”
“(Metzger) will drive me to restaurants or the little grocery store or anywhere I want to go,” McCauley said. “He is polite, respectful and I think Cartmen will go far.”
All requests for service go directly to a service center through email, voice or text and are routed to a Cartmen driver in the area via text message. Metzger is trying to do away with the time-consuming process of talking on the phone entirely.
In the late evenings Cartmen trolls the bar scene, picking up intoxicated downtown residents and driving them home.
Shua Daughtry, Cape Fear Community College student and future nanotechnology engineer, said he uses the shuttle service when he drinks downtown.
“I’ve gotten home safely when I would have otherwise passed out halfway there.”
From bread and milk to beer and cigarettes, they’ll deliver it all. Downtown businesses use the delivery service if they’re running low on ice, food, liquor or other supplies.
The company works entirely on tips, with advertizing space covering the rest of the organization’s operating costs. With no payroll expenses and the $1 it costs to fully charge one cart, Cartmen’s overhead expenses are truly small.
Metzger plans to install solar panels on the roofs of his golf carts to make them 100 percent renewable and to reduce costs further. Also in the works are 360-degree cameras and a GPS device on each cart to increase security.
The company has not had any security problems or traffic accidents in its’ 75,000 miles on Wilmington streets thus far.
Taxicab drivers in Wilmington are not being undercut by Cartmen because the short distances Cartmen takes its “fares” is not profitable for most cab drivers.
“If you ask any cab driver downtown, they’ll say it’s a good idea,” said Lett’s Taxi driver Al Cox. “If they don’t, they’re just pissed they didn’t think of it first.”
With its large potential for growth, don’t be surprised to see Cartmen in your city soon.
Metzger calls his vision “an incredible niche market that has yet to be tapped.”