Dubé was on a roll, building a rhythm as he explained that these are self-assembling batteries — you can dump the ingredients into a container and they assemble themselves into a battery — which means they're relatively cheap to manufacture. Batteries naturally expand and contract, and paste-based batteries like classic disposable AA alkalines eventually crack from the stress. Since LFP particles self-assemble, they expand and contract less, making them infinitely more durable. Yet-Ming also found that when you control the particle size, you get a huge increase in conductivity. That's the source of the KillaCycle's power.

The Galileo reporter bobbed his head blankly. "Well, enough of the nerdy stuff, eh? Let's look at the bike!" he said.

"Yeah, enough of that. I thought you only talked nerdy to me, baby," Håkansson said to Dubé, slinking up next to him, practically purring.

Bill Dubé and Eva Håkansson fell in love with speed — and each other.
Bill Dubé and Eva Håkansson fell in love with speed — and each other.
Tracy Helmhold goes electric with the KillaCycle at Bandimere.
Tracy Helmhold goes electric with the KillaCycle at Bandimere.

Dubé gave a naughty grin.

Håkansson was reassuring her husband, but she was also ready to interject some of her own nerdiness. "What the technology does for us is create a battery that can last for 10,000 cycles. That's compared to only 300 cycles for the typical cell-phone battery or 500 cycles for a laptop, if you're lucky," she said.

"We talk about batteries in bed, you know," Dubé added.

Dubé and Håkansson were running at full horsepower, but their KillaCycle headquarters was a crowded mess. There was the KillaCycle, undressed, exposing its underbits to everyone. There was the ElectroCat, brooding beneath a nylon sleeping bag, desperately in need of body work after Håkansson crashed it on a test ride up Pikes Peak. The garage also contained an old drill press, a CNC mill, a gargantuan lathe, a floor jack, a compressor with its hose snaking around the floor, an inexplicable jumble of broken chain links, endless loops of extension cord, blocks of wood and even an ancient Clark forklift — "It's electric!" said Håkansson — that they'd bought for $500 in a government auction.

The Galileo crew seemed a tad overwhelmed by the clutter, so Dubé and Håkansson shuffled things around, looping up cords and hoses, moving out the ElectroCat and the forklift. Every film crew that visits wants something different, Dubé said; one day he's scolded for the mess, the next he's encouraged to leave everything in its natural state. Either way, it's important to him that the media capture the reality of their circumstances: Team KillaCycle is on one serious shoestring.

Most professional racing programs spend more in a weekend at the racetrack than Team KillaCycle spends in a year. On average, Dubé pours $15,000 to $20,000 annually from his own pocket into the racing program, far less than it needs. Sponsors like A123 Systems in Massachusetts and Woody's Wheel Works in Denver offset some of the costs with free materials and labor, but "asking someone to sponsor your race program is like asking your next-door neighbor to buy a large-screen television for your house," Dubé told the crew.

"We spend, on average, an hour a day out here. That's all we have," said Håkansson, picking up loose bits of who-knows-what from the floor. "This is not our day job. It is still just a very expensive hobby, but when you think about it, it's rather impressive what we have accomplished on Bill's government salary."

While Håkansson whittles away at her graduate degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Denver, researching carbon fiber applications for distribution cables (those giant, 70,000-volt electric-transmission lines you see running next to the interstate in rural areas), Dubé works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration building advanced sensors for hurricane hunters, the enormous surveillance planes that fly into hurricanes and measure atmospheric conditions. They're both proud of the work they do — professionally and academically, they have found ways to potentially help the environment — but it takes time from their true passion.

Like time, money is in short supply. The old Prius in front? Haggled for a heavy discount on eBay. The converted travel trailer that carries the KillaCycle to the racetrack? Found for a steal on Craigslist. Their living room furniture would look more comfortable on the porch of a fraternity house. "That crappy sprinkler makes us go faster," Håkansson said, pointing to a cheap plastic sprinkler watering their lawn. "Every spare cent goes to the bikes. The crappy trailer, the crappy house, the crappy furniture, it all makes us go faster. And if going faster makes people believe in electric, it's worth it."

Despite their devotion to the cause, the KillaCycle has lost some of its attention-grabbing momentum in the last year. Dubé and Håkansson's budgetary limitations have taken a toll on the KillaCycle's construction and performance. They can only afford commercially available motors and controllers, the devices that control the output of energy from the battery pack to the motors. Although the KillaCycle's two current motors are designed to only handle 23 horsepower, Dubé has pushed them to 250 horsepower. To really hang with competitors, though, both need to be custom-built.

New, boutique vehicle manufacturers like Tesla Motors have followed Dubé and Håkansson's philosophy of designing high-performance electric vehicles that are both efficient and powerful, but are able to develop their EVs using millions in venture capital. The $100,000 Tesla Roadster can reach 14,000 rpm and top speeds of 125 mph, but still last 245 miles on a single charge. "People freak out about the price tag," Dubé notes, "but the Roadster is just as powerful and sexy as a Ferrari or Lamborghini. No one thinks paying $100,000 for a Ferrari is crazy."

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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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