The Sebring-Vanguard Citicar might have been one of the worst among them.
With modern EVs providing near-silent speed and waves of torque, it’s easy to forget just how very bad electric cars were a few decades ago. Case in point, look at this 1975 Sebring-Vanguard Citicar from the YouTube channel Aging Wheels.
It’s terrifying in almost every respect and yet, according to the host of this video, Sebring-Vanguard managed to sell over 2,000 of them before selling the design to Commuter Vehicles, which sold an additional 2,000 units. Then a Norwegian company got ahold of it and kept it in production from the early 1990s until the mid-2010s as the Kewet.
The Citicar is a small, riveted-together plastic thing with a level of build quality that would have golf carts and Soviet-made cars looking down their noses. It’s powered by four lead-acid 12-volt car batteries for a total of 48 volts. It also looks like a cartoon wedge of cheese.
The original throttle system on the Citicar involved a three-stage switch rather than a smooth, progressive rheostat. The first switch setting was like low gear and would operate two batteries in series with a resistor to limit current going to the motor. The second position takes that resistor out of the equation. The final position uses all four of the batteries in series for the full 48 volts.
The HVAC system for the Citicar consists of a NACA-style duct on the nose of the car that leads to the cabin and a fan to blow air over the electric motor. If the fan sucks air over the motor, it (kind of) provides cabin heat, reverse the fan and it cools the motor.
This car was somehow the highest-production US-built electric car since 1945 until it was overtaken by the Tesla Model S. We’re just as shocked as you, but against our better judgment, we still want to drive one.