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Dubé's first homemade drag EV was a cherry-red 1985 Volkswagen Rabbit convertible named the Ewetwik Wabbit. In 1998, the Wabbit vomited its transmission onto the starting line of a drag strip in Portland, Oregon. Dejected during the long drive back to Denver, Dubé daydreamed about his next project. "Conversions always have issues," he says. "Cars are heavy and expensive, so I decided on that road trip that I wanted to build a motorcycle."

He spent six months creating the KillaCycle in the basement of his Park Hill bungalow. He dismantled the finished bike to get it up the stairs, then reassembled it and took it straight to the racetrack.

The KillaCycle dominated the electric-motorcycle scene for the next ten years. In August 2000, it became the world's fastest electric vehicle in the quarter-mile drag. It was the first electric vehicle of any kind to surpass 150 mph — once clocking in at a top speed of 174mph — and the first electric vehicle to break the eight-second barrier for quarter-mile drag racing, traveling 1,320 feet in 7.86 seconds. With 500 horsepower and an output of up to 375 volts, the Killacycle is still the world's quickest electric vehicle, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in under one second.

Håkansson's father, Sven, works on the ElectroCat.
Håkansson's father, Sven, works on the ElectroCat.

******

From the staging area, the entry to the Bandimere starting line looks like a square mouth, a wide strip of Dodger-blue paint lying between the two tracks like a tongue. A small four-wheeler runs up and down the track spraying what Helmhold calls "goop": PJ1 TrackBite, a special resin-based traction compound that helps tires stick to the concrete and doubles as a fire retardant.

"Don't walk across the path of the bike while you're filming; it's considered bad etiquette," Dubé advises the Galileo crew. "You wouldn't want to, anyway: The goop will suck your shoe off your foot if it's not laced tightly."

Helmhold slowly glides the KillaCycle downhill, a dark lozenge easing into the throat of the speedway. The air is wet and heavy; time is running out.

A track employee sprays a little water behind the KillaCycle; Helmhold walks the bike backward until its rear wheel sits in the puddle. It's time for the burnout: a drag-racing move in which the driver intentionally spins the rear wheel of the vehicle on the pavement, heating up the tire enough that it lays down a thin strip of rubber at the beginning of the track, theoretically improving traction. But mostly it's a roaring, smoky display of prowess and power meant to build excitement. If drag racing were sex, this would be the foreplay.

The cameraman tiptoes in, his forehead glistening with anticipation. The sound engineer follows close behind, his boom mike dangling overhead. Helmhold pulls on his helmet and gently slips the connector into the ignition. His shoulders and thighs brace to catch the sudden thrust. He cranks the throttle.

The KillaCycle goes clunk. Nothing happens.

Dubé rushes over. "That's not good," he mutters. "What happened? That's never happened before. Eva, do you have a Dzus? Honey, I need a voltmeter!"

Eva Håkansson drops her tool purse and sprints off, out the mouth of the racetrack, up the stairs and back to the pit.

******

Eva Håkansson took her first trip to the racetrack in a baby carrier. Her father, Sven, was a motorcycle builder and championship racer in Sweden long before she was born, competing in the 50cc class. He was the kind of character who would wake up one day, sniff the air and decide to build a desmodronic-valve engine — the sort used in some Ducati motorcycles — entirely from scratch.

Håkansson grew up in Nynäshamn, Sweden, a port municipality in Södermanland, 57 kilometers south of Stockholm on the shores of the Baltic Sea. "Sure, it was beautiful, but boring," she recalls. She passed the time by tinkering with technology, building things with her father in his workshop. Her parents fondly recall her constructing a model nuclear power plant out of cardboard and used soup cans when she was only four years old.

By the time Håkansson turned eighteen, her little projects had blossomed into serious science. She won the Swedish Junior Water Prize in 1999 for a biological wastewater treatment project that explored eutriphication in the Baltic Sea, proposing cost-effective, low-impact techniques for curbing excess nitrate and phosphate pollution. In 2000, she presented a project at the Swedish Exhibition of Young Scientists, proposing that purifying water with chlorine and boiling methods was too expensive and inefficient for practical use in emergency situations, and suggesting that high-voltage currents or high-efficiency heat exchangers could do the job faster, for less. The presentation earned her a place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Detroit — the Olympics of academic science competitions. Over 1,200 students from 48 states and 40 countries made presentations, but Håkansson's was one of just two that received the Schlumberger SEED International Prize.

Since her parents and two older brothers had all pursued educations in engineering, everyone assumed that Håkansson would follow in their footsteps when she graduated from her technical high school program. Instead, she took a rebellious turn and became a business major. "I wanted to do something different," she says, "and I decided that the easiest way to help the environment was through the economy." At Mälardalen University, she earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with an emphasis in ecological economics, and a bachelor's degree in environmental sciences.

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3 comments
Visualeyes108
Visualeyes108

Wow. I better go through my change jar and find enough quarters to buy a KillaCycle t-shirtWonder if they have KillaJoule T-shirts yet?

the_punnisher
the_punnisher

From someone who worked on the FIRST Killacycle power pack:

Everyone left out the OTHER local story that involved EVs and the packs that were produced for the Dodge Intrepid ESX...as well as the Original Killacycle.

Bill owes a bit of thanks to the BOLDER TECHNOLOGIES TMF ( Thin Metal Film ) power cell.

Bolder Technologies was ahead of it's time. And was allowed to be outsourced. Golden lost a potential energy hub.....

I spent quite a few hours of company time working on the packs....

And the Killacycle was the first thing you saw when you entered the Lobby of our building......

I HATE revisionist history. Especially when it involves my former employers..like Cray Research and Bolder Technologies.....

Rmkpower1
Rmkpower1

Tracy is an awesome choice to ride that motorcycle he is a mutli winner of Division5 drag racing,,

 
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