Remembering the CitiCar, the Electric Vehicle With Popular Appeal

More

When Bob Beaumont invented the CitiCar in the 1970s, he had in mind more than a technological wonder

In the 1960s, a car salesman by the name of Bob Beaumont grew so disgusted with the oil consumption required by our car-based transportation system that he sold his dealership and committed himself to developing an electric vehicle with popular appeal. The result, which first rolled off the assembly line in 1974, was the CitiCar, something like a golf cart with a roof, lights, a bit more speed (40 mph) and a bit more range (40 miles). With their fun colors and a price of $3,000 (about $1,500 to $2,000 less than the cost of an average car at the time), the little cars sold pretty well. Beaumont's company, Sebring-Vanguard, produced about 2,000 of these little vehicles, making it, surprisingly, the sixth-largest car manufacturer in America. But after the oil crisis of the 1970s, sales  of the little cars dropped, and in 1977 the company declared bankruptcy.

Beaumont passed away last week at the age of 79 at his home in Columbia, Maryland. In his later years he worked as an advocate for electric-vehicle research and federal support.

The little CitiCars still have fans, and every now and then one makes an appearance on eBay, but they are relics of a certain age. Today's electric cars have less of the CitiCar's hacked-together appeal, and more of a futuristic, sleek appearance, such as Nissan's Leaf, Chevy's Volt, or, the top-of-the-line Tesla Roadster. These cars may win hearts with their looks, but with their sticker prices topping those of basic cars such as a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla by about 10  to 15 grand, one wishes today's designers had a bit more of Bob Beaumont's popular vision in them.



Jump to comments
Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In