In person, Swedish-born, American-resident Eva Hakansson is bubbly, effervescent, charming, friendly—and utterly committed to setting land speed records on her electric motorcycle.
Hakansson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Denver, and with her American husband Bill Dubé she built every bit of Killajoule, which she calls “eco-activism in disguise.” It’s the world’s fastest electric motorcycle, and she’s the fastest female on any motorcycle, period. At Bonneville Salt Flats late last month she achieved a top speed of 241.901 mph, beating the previous record by 25 mph.
Actually, Killajoule is the fastest sidecar motorcycle of any type. The internal-combustion record in that category was 224.201. “This is a truly historic event,” she said. “It is the first time in over a century that an electric vehicle beat internal combustion for a vehicle type. The last time this happened was in 1899 when the world’s fastest car was the EV ‘La Jamais Contente,’ driven by Camille Jenatzy at 65 mph.” Back then, they didn't even think the human body could hold up at those speeds.
The 33-year-old Hakansson did at least 80 percent of the work on Killajoule--making parts on the milling machine, welding, fabricating--in the two-car garage she shares with Dubé. Built in their spare time by two “backyard racers with high-level engineering skills,” it took five years to finish. Hakansson says her mission with Killajoule is to show that “eco-friendly doesn’t mean slow and boring.” Check!
"We're really eco-terrorists," Dubé told me. "We're running electricity and going as fast as the gas cars. And now the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a very old race, is starting to be dominated by the electrics." A team run out of Ohio State University's Center for Auto Research fields the Buckeye Bullet, a four-wheeled electric that has topped 300 mph on the Bonneville flats. A new generation of the car should go even faster.
In truth, slow and boring is an unfair image for electric vehicles. They have 100 percent torque from zero RPM, which means that they can leave gas cars in the dust. The Tesla Model S, for example, can and does beat supercars from a dead stop. And then there’s a whole host of electric drag racers, most memorably John Wayland and his infamous “White Zombie,” a Datsun 1200 that can regularly outpace Corvettes. It was the first street-legal electric car to run a 10-second 1/4 mile. It's not just one for the track, either-- Wayland can drive it home!
Wayland and Hakansson are out to prove something-- namely, that EVs needn't be boringly efficient cars driven by earnest progressives. I’d say they've accomplished their goal.
I’ve interviewed both of them on video, so here’s Hakansson on what makes her tick:
And here’s Wayland: