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Other vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, although more modest in price and performance, now command considerable mainstream attention — far more than the pilot EV projects of the 1990s. More than a century after their invention, electric vehicles are finally on the cusp of widespread acceptance. The KillaCycle is no longer going it alone; it's now part of a pack. "As electric gets faster, interest builds," says Dubé, "and money is pouring into electric drag racing right now." Every time the KillaCycle sets a record, it encourages someone else to try to beat it.

"That's the nature of records," says Dubé. "They're never owned, only borrowed, and they're always meant to be broken." In drag racing, where the KillaCycle was the undisputed leader for over a decade, it's now lost significant ground to other, better-funded programs.

One particular racing program has taken the lead. Ohio-based builder and racer Shawn Lawless teamed up with Orange County Choppers (yes, the reality-show celebrities on the Discovery Channel and TLC) to create the subtly named Rocket, an electric drag motorcycle designed to usurp the top seat in the NEDRA record books.

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.

Last August, using a battery pack that Dubé claims was built by a member of the KillaCycle crew, racing legend Larry "Spiderman" McBride drove the Rocket at Quaker City Raceway in Salem, Ohio, on a pass that unofficially beat the KillaCycle's fastest time in the quarter-mile drag. In September, the Rocket became the first electric motorcycle to enter the 175 mph club, a barrier that the KillaCycle has yet to break.

Lawless and his crew quickly went back to his shop and built another battery pack, at a cost of unknown thousands, that increased the Rocket's output to nearly 900 horsepower. By November, the NEDRA record for world's fastest belonged to the Rocket.

And then on April 30, at Virginia Motorsports Park, the Rocket shattered the ceiling: It passed a quarter of a mile in 7.246 seconds, more than half a second faster than KillaCycle's best, and reached a top speed of almost 186 mph. Lawless says he plans to break into the sixes and top 200 mph before the end of this year.

******

Matt Villescas is going to need some protection. He doesn't look like the sort of guy who likes to go fast; he's a little shy and a lot polite. But his custom license plates read YAWCNTL, an insider's nod to Active Yaw Control, the computer-controlled differential that punches extra torque to his car's wheels. And that added torque is doing the trick: He just drove his street-legal 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Concept-X on a pass at Bandimere Speedway in less than fourteen seconds. That means that Villescas must wear a helmet for all subsequent passes. He's surprised when he looks at his time slip — and pleased — because he's never raced his car on a real drag strip before.

The Galileo crew wants a little competitive contrast for its television segment, so Håkansson has invited Villescas, a friend of a fellow DU grad student, to face off against the KillaCycle. Villescas borrows a helmet from the Bandimere staff and narrowly squeezes his head into it, his dimples accentuated by the pressure against his cheeks. He steps into the driver's seat and fastens his seatbelt.

After the initial clunky start, the KillaCycle has recharged its battery and returned to the starting area, ready to race head-to-head with the Evo X. Helmhold rolls up, mumbling something about the KillaCycle's gear ratio feeling soft, then turns to Dubé. "I think I'll hug the left side of the track this time, since I don't have any tire tracks to follow," he says. "And I'm probably gonna give him a little head start," nodding his head toward Villescas.

Dubé winks.

The Galileo crew has decided to shoot this pass from high above the track, at the top of the spectator stands. As they wave that they're ready, Helmhold does a conservative burnout.

The starting tree, affectionately called the "Christmas tree" by racers, begins its cycle through the lights: yellow, yellow, yellow, green. The Evo X screams off. A few hundredths of a second later, the KillaCycle flies past.

Helmhold finishes nearly five seconds faster than Villescas, in the eights.

"That is one hot street car!" says Håkansson, enthused by the Evo X's performance. "Of course, you know, it didn't stand a chance, but wow!"

At this moment, it's obvious that the mission is not to beat other electrics, but to beat gasoline.

Specifically, Team KillaCycle is competing against sexy-hot autos like the Evo X, which are the antithesis of EV stereotypes. "Electric vehicles don't have to be boring, slow or ugly," says Håkansson. "Who wants a nerdmobile? People want to go fast without feeling guilty about it."

Dubé looks giddy again, thoroughly satisfied. "Not bad for only seven and a half cents," he says.

"Well, fuel prices fluctuate, of course. He means we use the energy equivalent of only two ounces of fuel," Håkansson says, explaining that the KillaCycle's battery contains enough juice to power the motorcycle through seven passes down the drag strip. When it's needed, a Cummins Onan Hybrid Quiet Diesel generator recharges the KillaCycle in around four minutes. Dubé and Håkansson only use biodiesel, naturally, but dream of integrating the generator into a solar or wind system.

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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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