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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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FuelMe brings revolutionary way to fill up your tank


Nahhas with his FuelMe co-founder Baki are revolutionizing

FuelMe is how two UH alumn are hoping to make a difference when Cougars look to fill up their tanks. | Sonia Zuniga/The Cougar

Commuters have too many things on their plate to worry about whether or not they have enough gas in their car.

The FuelMe smartphone app promises it can at least take that task off students’ backs by bringing the gas station to you.

“Cars sit idle for 96 percent of their life,” said alumnus and FuelMe co-founder Wisam Nahhas. “Why would you want to fill it up in the 4 percent when you’re actually using the car?”

C.T. Bauer College of Business’ Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship alumni Nahhas and Nour Baki, along with two other partners from California, worked together to build the FuelMe app.

The bright orange FuelMe trailer has four separate tanks carrying 440 gallons of premium and regular gas, all piped down in the same hosing system. The 13-foot long trailer weighs roughly 5,000 pounds.

It took Nahhas two months before he felt comfortable driving it.

“I’ve never driven a trailer before this,” he said. “I hit some stuff along the way near my house… I hit the side of my garage wall. It was a nightmare. Now, I can pretty much go in and out anywhere.”

FuelMe started in 2014, but it wasn’t until they were registering their company name that they found another FuelMe company just starting in California.

“I called the guy on LinkedIn, messaged him and we partnered with them,” Nahhas said. “Initially, they didn’t have these trailers set up, and we did, but they had an app that semi-worked,”

FuelMe’s process mirrors Uber’s— you sign in and supply your payment information with the make, model, year and color of the car. With just a few clicks, a driver is sent to your parked car and fills it up for a set delivery charge of $5 plus the price of the gas.

During the summer, the company received around 50 requests per week, mostly from UH staff.

Baki said since last week, they have done roughly a hundred fill-ups a week — doubling their summer status — and that number is expected to rise.

“Around 50-60 new customer accounts are being made every day since last week, so the word is getting out there, which is great,” Baki said.

The FuelMe app group has sponsored its services with the help of UH through emails, mentions and promotional giveaways, but getting students to stay is a challenge because they are on a budget.

Advertising senior Jennifer Moran just found out about FuelMe and finds she’d probably use it just in extreme cases like getting herself stuck on campus with no gas.

“Other than that, I don’t think I’ll be interested in using it much,” Moran said. “I wouldn’t feel safe giving information and access to unknown people.”

Another challenge FuelMe faces is not having access to fuel in parking garages. Whoever requests a fuel service will get a notice indicating they can’t request now and invites them to send an email to auxiliary services at UH.

Department of Public Safety Fire Marshal Christopher McDonald said he received a request from a student this summer, but explained that interior fueling operations can only be carried out in special-purpose industrial occupancies.

“The parking garages are not designed for, (nor), have the proper fire protection systems in place to safely accommodate the fueling of vehicles,” McDonald said.

It would require more robust construction and additional fire protection features like a sprinkler system.

“FuelMe may be new, but mobile refueling is not new,” McDonald said. I have been involved with mobile refueling since 2003. The issue here is not that Fuel Me is new and we have misgivings about allowing them to fuel in the garages, it is that fire code does not allow the fueling of vehicles in parking garages.”

Aside from UH, FuelMe is beginning to work with hospitals, airports and other companies this fall. In the near future, the goal is to work at a 24/7 basis and to service anyone.

“It doesn’t take much,” Nahhas said. “Just a trailer, a driver and our fuel network and we can go pretty much anywhere.”

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