“Gasoline?!” it says on the ove-rsized postcard Eva Hakansson handed me. “That’s so last century!”
The postcard shows photos of Eva, her crew -- which includes her husband, Bill Dube --and their KillaJoule, the 19-foot-long, streamline-bodied motorcycle she designed and they’ve built.
Oh, and if you think electric-powered vehicles are merely fancied-up golf carts or no-pedal bicycles, you need to think again. Eva and Bill designed and built the KillaJoule around the goal of exceeding 400 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats! And that’s without using any of that last-century gasoline or jet fuel or any other petroleum-based propulsion source, just batteries and electric motors.
Why? “To convince people -- the typical person or the board member of a major car company -- that electric vehicles are not merely golf cars but that they are fast cars,” Dube explains.
So why a motorcycle instead of a four-wheeled car? Because of the bike’s exciting power-to-weight ratio and because of the bang-for-the-buck when it comes to expenditures.
“We have a very limited budget and we want to go very fast,” Eva says. “A motorcycle is the way to do it.”
Oh, and it’s not just “a” motorcycle. Bill also created a more conventional-looking bike, the KillaCycle, which competes on the National Electric Drag Racing Association circuit, where it has covered a quarter-mile in 7.82 seconds at 168 mph.
Oh, and the KillaCycle, equipped with batteries that generate some 500 horsepower, consumes only 7 cents-worth of electricity per run. (For 7 cents, you can buy about two ounces of gasoline.)
Oh, and KillaCycle can make 14 runs on a single charge of its battery pack. But, Eva says, “why carry more fuel than you need?” Besides, the bike’s batteries can be recharged in just four minutes.
Bill and Eva and other NEDRA competitors -- most, including a DeLorean, a Pontiac Fiero and a Datsun 1200 sedan known as the “White Zombie,” with four wheels -- were here in Tucson for the inaugural Bookman’s Spring Thaw, an EV racing weekend at Southwestern International Raceway. (While rain would rein in the speeds achieved on the Tucson track, just a few weeks later, a rival bike -- the Orange County Chopper Rocket -- would become the first electric vehicle to break the 7-second barrier, touring a quarter-mile track in Virginia 6.94 seconds at 201.37 mph.
Among those making runs on the Tucson track was Bob Oldfather, Bookman’s founder who also is a former GM EV1 owner and who collects early (pre-World War I) American electric vehicles, including-- as seems fitting for someone who owns several used book stores -- a 1912 electric truck that the Curtis Publishing Co., publisher of the The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Jack & Jill and other titles, used as a delivery vehicle at its Philadelphia headquarters until 1959.
Eva and Bill met at an electric car show. He’s an mechanical engineer who built electric cars and used them as daily drivers and for drag racing. More than a dozen years ago, he helped found the NEDRA. Learning quickly the challenges of converting an existing vehicle from gasoline to electricity, he launched a purpose-built EV project, the KillaCycle.
Eva is from Sweden, where she grew up in a family of engineers and racers. Her father raced motorcycles -- sometimes building their engines from scratch -- but during the oil crisis in the 1970s he began developing electric-powered alternatives.
Eva won awards for her schoolgirl science projects, which included using electricity to purify water. She earned business and environmental sciences degrees and worked with her father to build Sweden’s first street-legal electric motorcycle.
While writing a book about electric and hybrid vehicles, she contacted Dube to obtain a photograph of the KillaCycle. They later met, and married. In addition to building and racing electric motorcycles, she’s completing her master’s degree studies at the University of Denver.
And getting ready to return to Bonneville, where she and KillaJoule already have set one world record: .Because what appears to be an outrigger on the bike technically is considered a sidecar, the KillaJoule already is the world’s fastest electric-powered sidecar motorcycle because Eva rode it to a speed of 138.586 mph on a shakedown run at Bonneville last year.
-- Larry Edsall