- Plasma accelerators driven by particle beams are a very promising future accelerator technology as they can sustain high accelerating fields over long distances with high energy efficiency. They rely on the excitation of a plasma wave in the wake of a drive beam. To generate the plasma, a neutral gas can be field-ionized by the head of the drive beam, in which case the distance of acceleration and energy gain can be strongly limited by head erosion. Here we overcome this limit and demonstrate that electrons in the tail of a drive beam can be accelerated by up to 27 GeV in a high-ionization-potential gas (argon), boosting their initial 20.35 GeV energy by 130%. Particle-in-cell simulations show that the argon plasma is sustaining very high electric fields, of ∼150 GV m(-1), over ∼20 cm. The results open new possibilities for the design of particle beam drivers and plasma sources.