BARBERTON: It's easy to understand why Jim Weirick is more than just a little amped up these days.
Weirick's latest conversion, a 1995 Honda Del Sol, can go as fast as 90 mph.
The vehicle costs about 4 cents a mile to power, slightly less than half the cost of powering with gasoline.
The Del Sol runs on 21 6-volt flooded lead acid batteries. Eight are located in the trunk of the car and the other 13 are in the front in the traditional engine compartment.
''This is the car of the future,'' said the 47-year-old Weirick, who earned a bachelor's degree in electronic technology from the University of Akron.
''This isn't just a gimmick car, this is a tremendously functional and cost-effective car. The next time gas prices go through the roof, people will remember this.''
The Del Sol, which was converted for a cardiologist in Washington, D.C., is the eighth vehicle that Weirick has turned from a gas drinker into an energy-efficient plug-in in his make-shift 700-square foot garage on Fairmont Avenue, just west of Rolling Acres Mall.
His tinkering started with a Fiero six years ago.
''I had worked for the phone company for a while,'' Weirick said, ''and was doing pretty well. I was making about $50,000 a year and living comfortably.''
But that all changed when he caught the bug about electric-powered cars.
He left the phone company and his comfortable lifestyle to delve full time into his vision.
''I certainly don't make $50,000 a year anymore,'' Weirick said. ''In fact, I don't make enough to even date, let alone have a wife and kids.''
Instead, he's married to his dream.
He started his company, Real EVs All Electric Cars, on the eyelet of a shoestring.
''I had a skill,'' he said, ''and not much else. Gas prices were going up toward $4 a gallon and I saw an opportunity to plug in my skill.
''My problem was that I didn't get enough battery-powered cars out before the gas prices dropped. But they'll go up again. That's one thing I'm sure we can count on.''
In the six years he's been plugging along, he's produced a total of eight vehicles that are powered solely by batteries.
His second conversion was a Volkswagen Beetle, which he later turned into his show car — Snow Buggy II. It boasts a top speed of 70 mph and has a range of 65 miles at 60 mph. It runs on 20 flooded NiCad batteries and needs nine hours to charge.
''It's such a unique car with its design,'' Weirick said, ''that I never get stopped. I don't think the police know what to think of it.''
In 2005, he did his first Del Sol conversion and then, after a two-year break, came back in 2008 with a Festiva and the Snow Buggy II. He did a one-person enclosed bicycle and the second Del Sol this year.
He said he averages about 150 hours of work per conversion. Weirick charges about $10,000 for the batteries and labor per car conversion.
''I don't care what kind of condition the car is in, as long as it is functional,'' Weirick said.
The second Del Sol features strong pickup, even up challenging hills.
Weirick said lithium batteries are an option that will produce a little more power and greater range, but the cost of the batteries would force him to charge $25,000 for the conversion.
Meanwhile, Weirick figures he'll stick with the lower-cost batteries and make the cars approachable to the average person.
''I want to keep things nice and simple,'' Weirick said. ''This is more about making cars more affordable to run than creating high-end cars.''
Toward that end, Weirick is looking to hook up with an experienced auto body specialist and create the most cost-efficient car possible.
''I know very little about body work, so I need somebody with that background to help me build a battery-powered car completely from scratch,'' he said. ''I need him to build a nice frame and body, and I'll do the rest.
''If I can make the car more aerodynamic, I really think I can produce a car that will cost 2 cents a mile, will do 100 mph and have a cruising range of more than 100 miles.
''It will probably look something like a bullet. And I would be building my own custom cars.''
Until then, Weirick will forge ahead, living on conviction.
''I really believe that at some point, the electric car is really going to make it big,'' Weirick said. ''And it will be more than just a car to drive to work and back home, it will be a car you use for everything.
''It just makes sense. Electricity is the universal power supply and once more people get into electric cars, the price of the conversion will come down as well because the batteries will get cheaper as more are produced.
''Right now it's just a dream. But I think I'll live long enough to see it become a reality.''
Bill Lilley can be reached at 330-996-3811 or email@example.com.