Straight Outta Santa Ana: EV Sportscar Pioneer

Categories: Ride Me
Nic-L-Silver-electric-car_square.jpg
One in an occasional series reviewing consumer vehicles that are powered by water, natural gas, electricity, hybrid motors, high-efficiency gasoline engines or some other alternative source.

I remember when the first Mazda Miata hit American shores in 1989, I wondered to myself why it was a gas- as opposed to electric-powered version of the European roadsters of the 1960s. Turns out a Santa Ana company had already unveiled such a car . . . 30 years earlier.

As John Voelcker recalls in a recent Green Car Reports story, it had also occurred to George Lippincott, founder and president of Nic-L-Silver Battery Co. of Santa Ana, that Americans would better embrace an electric that resembed a sportscar as opposed to, say, a refrigerator box.

Already at the helm of a company that made popular American car batteries, Lippincott in the late 1950s assembled a team of engineers and designers to design the chassis for his dream car. Fiberglass sportscar maker Victress was enlisted to style the body and assemble the vehicle.

1956-Vectress.jpg
A light fiberglass body to compensate for battery weight and the style of this 1956 Victress made the company the perfect Pioneer partner.
With the idea of churning out 10 cars a day, Lippincott unveiled his Pioneer prototype--with a box frame designed by Indy car builder Frank Kurtis--at the 1959 Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona:

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George Lippincott behind the wheel of his one-and-only Pioneer electric.
With two electric motors, the Pioneer ran eight hours or up to 150 miles on a charge (and came with a built-in charger), reached top speeds of 50 mph and cost just under $2,000, reports Voelcker, who adds battery replacement was estimated to cost around $300.

Alas, the Pioneer was abandoned after that single prototype was built. Can you imagine how far battery and electric-car technology would have advanced by now had it caught on?

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5 comments
John Voelcker
John Voelcker

 Please note that this article was actually written by RICK FEIBUSCH of Venice; I just happen to be the editor of Green Car Reports, and I posted it on his behalf. Rick should get all the writing credit.

Kvisoft
Kvisoft

The old styles are always classic.

mitch young
mitch young

So, when white people lived in Santa Ana, the city produced cutting edge technology. 

Today, it produces yet another variation of tacos on wheels.

ANationOfBarbaricMotherfvckers
ANationOfBarbaricMotherfvckers

"Can you imagine how far battery and electric-car technology would have advanced by now had it caught on?"

Only if I'm allowed to imagine that I live within a society that prioritizes supporting the development of new energy resources with the SAME enthusiasm with which they support ILLEGALLY INVADING other nations, the use of TORTURE and the open TRANSFER OF WEALTH from savers to speculators.

BTW, I wonder how many people are aware of the fact that one of the very FIRST things ol' Tom Edison did in order to display the power of his new invention WAS TO E-L-E-C-T-R-O-C-U-T-E a poor live elephant in public?

Tim Fuller
Tim Fuller

Range of 150 miles on lead acid batteries way back in the 1950's, but to get that same range today you gotta buy $$$$ Lithium batteries?  Lead acid batteries are fine for electric vehicles properly designed and would fit well within the range of most commuter driving.  Let's not use them.  Let's use a battery technology that relies on scarce and expensive lithium supplies, located mainly on the Chinese mainland.   Enjoy.

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