One fast Swede.
Fast can also be clean – Eva Håkansson is sure of this. The mechanical engineer with a doctorate wants to prove to the world that environmentally-friendly electric vehicles are fast and fun, and that mechanical engineering is an outstanding choice of profession for women. On the move with the fastest female motorcyclist in the world, who posted a new world record of 434 km/h with her homemade "KillaJoule" streamliner.
The genes are at fault
Eva Håkansson loves designing completely new vehicles and taking part in races with them. It's probably because of her genes. Because Eva grew up in her home country, Sweden, with a father who would tinker with motorcycles in the evening and take part in races at weekends. His mechanic: her mother. The logical consequence: Eva was out on the racetrack when she was still a baby.
"My father was an engineer and motorcycling champion. I basically inherited his love of science and motorcycling", says the 35 year old, who lives in the USA today. "I practically grew up in his motorcycle workshop and he would always encourage me to get my hands dirty. He insisted that I work on my own car and motorcycle. In 2007, we converted a motorcycle into an e-bike together. That was the beginning of my love for electric vehicles."
The motorcycle that she built with her father was called "ElectroCat". In January 2008, it became the first registered e-bike in Sweden. Shortly afterwards, she was invited to present her ElectroCat to the Swedish parliament, and to talk about the advantages of electric vehicles as a keynote speaker.
"This was probably the first time that a motorcycle has ever been in a parliamentary building. The secret service were a bit sceptical at first, until they found out that there was no fuel in the motorcycle. Thankfully, the bike just about fit into the lift. We brought it into the parliament building the night before through a back door. I felt like I was in a James Bond film."
Fast and green
The years were marked by work, work, work. The couple worked full-time and studied alongside this. On free evenings and at weekends they would build, convert, adjust and prepare the KillaJoule. Added to this were the races to advertise the ecological advantages of battery-powered motorcycles.
Both are engineers – and so the conversions and modernisations to the battery technology proceeded swiftly. A sidecar was built and the drivetrain was converted from D.C. motors seemingly stemming from the Stone Age into A.C. motors in line with the space age. The fastest motorcyclist in the world? A seemingly unattainable goal at the time.
"I have this irrepressible will to try things no one has ever tried before", Eva explains. "It's fun for me to exceed the limits of technology and test out my abilities right on the limit. I always want to be the best at everything. In order to achieve the goal we have set out for ourselves, we have to work every day. We need to want it so badly that we never give up. I enjoy building more than riding and this is important, as you spend 360 days of the year in the workshop and just five days out on the racetrack.
Hunting for records
Full speed ahead into a clean future
In August, Eva will once again be testing her limits with the KillaJoule at the Speed Trials on Lake Bonneville – in the hope of breaking another record. She terms her strategy - using speed to make the potential of battery drives clear - "hidden eco-activism". And if she is also able to demonstrate that women can be extraordinary engineers in the process, this is another mission accomplished for Eva Håkansson. She is proud to tread in her father's footsteps, to whom she owes her knowledge and skills. "If I have a fiddly mechanical engineering problem, I ring him up and he always has a solution at the ready. I have learnt so much from him. He is the reason it was possible for me to post records with a vehicle I built with my own hands in the first place."