Academics and Research / News

Eco-friendly grad student speeds her way to world record

Eva Hakansson established the first world record for an electric streamliner motorcycle last month. Photo: Eva Hakansson

Eva Hakansson’s need for speed is of world record proportions.

Hakansson rocketed “KillaJoule” — a 19-foot, 1,200-pound electric streamliner motorcycle — to the first world record for that class of motorcycle at the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on Aug. 30.

The DU grad student averaged 138.586 mph [223 kph] over the flying mile. She also recorded a top speed of 151 mph [243 kph], which turned out to be her equipment’s limit. The international sanctioning body for motorcycle racing, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclism, should ratify the record soon.

“We would have loved to continue bumping up the speed, but we had found the weakest link and there was nothing we could do at the track,” Hakansson says.  

The cycle is one part of Hakansson’s KillaCylce racing team. Along with her husband, Bill Dube, and another cycle called the “ElectroCat,” Hakansson aims to show the world that eco-friendly transportation can be fast and sexy.

Hakansson will replace the bike’s DC drivetrain with a brand new state-of-the-art EVO Electric AC motor and two Rinehart Motion Systems controllers for the SCTA-BNI World Finals in October.

Though Hakansson calls the race team an expensive hobby, she says she’s just getting started.

“People find it impressive that this has all been done in 18 months working only in our spare time and paying most things out of pocket on an ordinary salary,” Hakansson says. “We have reached our first goals and expect much more to come. Soon, nobody will think that an eco-friendly vehicle has to be a slow and boring nerd-mobile.”

Hakansson says DU plays a critical role in her pursuit of world-class electric speed.

Hakansson and Dube met through their interest in electric motorcycles and their passion for alternative fuels. Bill is the designer of the world’s fastest electric vehicle of any kind — a drag racing motorcycle called the KillaCycle that does 0–60 mph in less than a second.

Born to a racing family in Sweden, Hakansson originally obtained degrees in business and environmental science but decided to study engineering after moving to Colorado. She started studying engineering at the University of Colorado-Denver in 2008, but came to the University after Dube — a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who had studied materials science at DU — introduced her to one of his former professors, Maciej Kumosa.

Kumosa, director of DU’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering, became Hakansson’s academic adviser and supervisor. She joined Kumosa’s materials and nanoscience research group and has been partly funded through research on next-generation high-voltage power lines.

“Two years ago, Eva did not have any degrees in engineering,” Kumosa says. “She wanted to do an accelerated teaching-research program in engineering — both undergraduate and graduate. As of today she has completed almost all undergraduate courses. Now she is a teaching assistant and is doing her own graduate research, taking graduate courses and racing her bikes, an enormous load.”

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