The upcoming Southern Oregon Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Show at ScienceWorks will feature a chubby, little, yellow 1958 Nash Metropolitan, possibly America’s first economy mini-car, recently converted from gasoline to electric and made to look new at a cost of $29,000 — about the same as many modern electric cars.

Owner Pete Jorgensen of Ashland loves to show off the yellow-and-white car, which he bought in very bad shape in Medford for $1,300. He traded the gas engine for parts and installed 32 lithium batteries, totaling 108 volts, which easily carry the car along at 40 mph.

“It can go a lot faster, but it’s 56 years old, and I want to be gentle with it,” says Jorgensen.

The car is made of heavy steel, typical of the period, and the specs (at note it’s gained 400 pounds from its manufactured weight.

Charging takes a bit over three hours and costs $1, allowing it to travel about 50 to 60 miles. This amounts to 200 miles a “gallon” at today’s gas prices.

“I like it a lot. It’s fun. I enjoy the challenge of putting parts together. It doesn’t take a degree in engineering,” says Jorgensen, who is a retired civil engineer. “I’m a real advocate of this, and it’s just a lot more fun than gas cars.”

The car and body were refurbished by South Valley Auto Body in Ashland. It was originally built by Austin in England.

It has a lot of torque and can be kept in third gear except on steep hills, he says. Such cars can be outfitted with much cheaper lead-acid batteries, but they weight a lot more — and lithium batteries have a lot more power, he notes.

Conversions of pickup trucks will be displayed by locals Brad Roupp and Patrick Box.

Jorgensen, a member of the Ashland Lions Club, is organizer of the show, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at ScienceWorks. You’ll see not just electric cars, but motorcycles, bicycles and electric-vehicle conversions. You’ll be able to talk to their owners and learn what’s new in the industry.

The free event is sponsored by the Ashland Lions Club. Donations of nonperishable food are sought for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. Cash donations go to Lions projects. An electric Biruni Metropolis Light Duty cargo bike will be raffled off, courtesy of Ashland Electric Bikes.

Jorgensen seeks to get owners of electric and hybrid cars to bring them to the show. One owner, from Portland, is driving his Nissan Leaf down from Portland.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at