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This is how my car operates (for now, anyway). It is quite drivable this way for city speeds at 48V. Something I would add is keep the clutch and transmission -- you'll need to slip the clutch to get going to prevent a huge jerk. With sepex it is great fun to get regen on the downshifts.

I read some old golf cart controllers would have 24V + starting resistor, 24V, and 48 V as three steps. The starting resistor was meant to be used for just a moment.
With the right motor you can control it with just a potentiometer and a contactor. Using a sepex motor you can control the field with a potentiometer and just connect the armature to the pack, via contactor.

The field power is just a few percent of the propulsion power so the losses in the pot are acceptable, you still need a sizable pot though, (rheostat).

With full field power (low pot resistance) the motor will spin very slowly, to speed it up- reduce the field power.

With a series motor, the power losses in the pot would be too great to deal with.
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