The Passing of a Modern Electric Car Pioneer

Electric car made from batteries
Electric car made from batteries

Bob Beaumont was a former Chrysler-Plymouth dealership owner who was appalled by the greed and issues concerning oil dependency in the United States. What he did was unthinkable for his generation: selling his business to open up a car company specifically to create affordable electric cars for American.

This decision was decades before giant automakers such as General Motors and Nissan started creating their own electric vehicle models. Beaumont said that his inspiration came from the battery powered lunar rover and that his car company would create electric cars for American use, to wean away from the dependency on foreign oil. Then the 1974 oil embargo hit, causing the long lines and tripling of gas prices at the pump. Around the same time, his company Sebring-Vanguard unveiled its electric car, the Vanguard Coupe.

The first design is based on the golf cart and did not pan out very well. The company’s second car design was called the CitiCar, incorporating much of the EV Coupe design with improvements. The car’s shape was a wedge and was basically a people transporter without many frills. Despite the minimalist design, the company’s output made it the sixth largest auto manufacturer in the United States in 1976. By 1977, about 2,300 CitiCars were produced by the company.

The CitiCar was a two seater priced at about $3,000 during its inaugural year. It was half the price of a regular internal combustion engine car of the time but there were critics. The souped up version can run up to 40 mph but questions about its roadworthiness, noise, unreliability and difficulty to drive continued to dog the design. Beaumont fought back and defended the car, even holding public demonstrations as to its safety by breaking a bat on the car. His challenge, “Can a Ford handle that?”

In 1979, after Sebring Vanguard undergone financial difficulties, the CitiCar design was purchased by Commuter Vehicles Inc. Now renamed Comuta-Cars, there was some form of commercial success totaling 4,444 Comuta-Cars of all models sold in the United States alone. This makes the CitiCar the record holder for the most number of road-legal Post War electric cars sold in the country.

With the design out of his hands, Beaumont moved to Maryland to run a used-car dealership but continued lobbying Congress to use and promote electric cars. He tried building another electric car again in the 1990s, a company named Renaissance Cars that produced a battery powered sports car, the Tropica. Only 25 were ever built.

Robert Gerald Beaumont was born in 1932 and passed away in 2011. According to his daughter, he died due to complications due to emphysema. His legacy continues on, as the virtues of electric cars become centerpieces for the now more environmentally conscious generation. He was the pioneer of the electric car revolution.