Unfortunately, in drag racing, no one much cares about that sort of thing.

The weather continues to hold, occasional patches of blue peeking through the clouds. For the next couple of passes, the KillaCycle lays down eights, Helmhold making it look easy.

"Five years ago, [those passes] would have set the world record," says Dubé. He lowers his voice, takes a few steps away from everyone else, and explains that someone could easily spend a million dollars to get one line in a record book — only to have it erased two weeks later by someone else with more money. He believes that the KillaCycle deserves a deep-pocketed benefactor; he's just not sure that he can be that someone.

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.

In the KillaCycle's formative days, folks were encouraging because it was a novelty, in its own class, and not perceived as a threat. But after a decade at the top, the KillaCycle became the bike to beat, and technological advances outpaced the bike's own innovations.

Dubé is undoubtedly competitive, but he's also an idealist on a mission — and his mission can only be achieved through cooperation. Working alone, electric vehicles will never completely dominate the racetrack, the mountain passes, the congested freeways or, more important, drivers' hearts. "That's why land speed racing is totally different, a lot more fun," he says. "Folks work together to see how fast we can make each other go. It's a completely different attitude."

Maybe that's why he's so excited about the KillaJoule.

******

On September 15, 2010, Eva Håkansson took her first steps on the moon. Her spacesuit was a poofy, white, five-layer Nomex fire suit, the sort worn by top fuel dragsters and stunt artists, and the moon was the USFRA 130-mph Club track at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The spaceship? The KillaJoule.

While the KillaCycle has topped out at 174 mph, with the KillaJoule, Håkansson and Dubé ultimately hope to break the land speed record for any motorcycle: 376 mph.

In 2009, with Håkansson driving, the ElectroCat set a NEDRA world record for 48-volt, street-legal motorcycles. Last June, under veteran racer John Scollon, it became the first electric motorcycle to complete the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, establishing the first world record for electric motorcycles in the event. But to go faster still, Håkansson created the KillaJoule.

She stripped wheels, axles and brakes off an old Suzuki motorcycle she found on Craigslist. With the help of two Bay Area frame-builders, Clay and Gary Gardiner, Håkansson and Dubé built the eighteen-foot-long chassis and roll cage in four days in March 2010. Håkansson's father helped design the suspension system. Early designs were optimized with computational fluid dynamics software, creating the most aerodynamic shape possible; when Håkansson and Dubé realized that the ideal model's design of composite fibers (the standard used for most contemporary streamliner land speed vehicles) would cost thousands of dollars, they had no choice but to switch to less expensive materials. So instead they riveted together curved sheets of aluminum to build the body, just like an airplane. For the nose cone, they molded fiberglass around one of those oversized exercise balls you find at the gym.

The result of the modifications? It seems that Håkansson's goal — to make people think electric is sexy — took a literal form: The first incarnation of the KillaJoule looks like a giant red vibrator on wheels.

Håkansson and Dubé took the KillaJoule to Bonneville for the World of Speed, an annual gathering of the world's greatest, newest and most bizarre land speed vehicles — think electrathon meets Burning Man meets rocket car. A few months before, Håkansson had planned to race the ElectroCat to the top of Pikes Peak, but she broke her wrist in a crash during a test run. The ElectroCat left her with a titanium plate in her forearm — but the KillaJoule could kill her.

"I'm not insane or anything," she protests. "Land speed racing is for grandmas. There's nothing out there to hit. You just go straight until you stop."

Land speed racers have been making the pilgrimage to the Bonneville Salt Flats since 1914, breaking all the major land speed barriers from 300 to 600 mph along the way. With no elevation changes, no major surface imperfections and nothing to crash into for miles, the only obstacles here are engineering and imagination.

After hours of slogging through the tech inspection — checking everything from the expiration date for her onboard fire extinguisher to the bead quality of her welding — Håkansson finally got her first pass on the flats. Inside the KillaJoule, she sat in a full recline, her eyes barely peeking over the front windshield. She steered the bike with two long, joystick-like steering rods. If needed, she could deploy a parachute out the back to assist with braking.

But she didn't need the parachute that day. The KillaJoule struggled to stay balanced, wobbling and curving, so Håkansson was unable to make a clean, straight pass. After each run, she returned to the pits, where Dubé and their pickup crew attempted to diagnose the problem. Steam billowed out of the compartment; it was coming from Håkansson, who was boiling inside her fire suit.

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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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