Column

Miss Håkansson, What Do you think about...

Acceleration?

Eva Håkansson explains what is like to be the world's famous woman on an e-motorcycle.

Illustration Joe Waldron

Fast is always in fashion! But my latest world speed record started out kind of boring. Accelerating up to about 300 kilometers per hour is pretty routine: most family vans can manage that. I sat on—well, actually “in”— my electric motorcycle and didn’t even have to change gears. It wasn’t until I neared 400 kilometer per hour that things got exciting. And it was downright magical when I reached the record speed of 400.2 km/h, officially making me the world’s fastest female motorcycle rider—and, mind you, on an electrically powered one. At the time, all I could think was: “Let’s do it again!”

I’ve been working with my husband on the KillaJoule, my streamliner sidecar motorcycle, since 2010. The rocket-shaped creation is built with a single aim: to be insanely fast. Eighteen months after we started, I drove it to its first world record. Since then it’s achieved a new record every year, and, since 2014, is the world’s fastest battery-powered motorcycle. Everybody loves speed, and my records are acclaimed all over the world, although I find it funny that most of this attention is probably because I’m a woman. I have a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering and never sought to be a role model, but I’ve become one.

Now I’m trying to use the attention as best I can to increase awareness for environmentally friendly mobility. When electric cars first came on the market about 15 years ago, they were something for nerds: dull and not very attractive. Hardly anyone could imagine driving one of them; you’d be laughed at. But electric mobility is sexy! And combined with racing, it can be really spectacular.

I flippantly describe my love for racing as a “genetic disorder.” My father was a champion motorcycle racer, and I inherited his love of speed! At the same time I’m a “tree hugger,” a nature lover. Friends of mine are activists who, for example, climb power plants with banners and demonstrate for clean energy. I admire their bravery, but I wanted to show my love for the environment in a different way, without risking arrest. So I combined my two passions: speed and the environment. I call my racing “eco-activism in disguise.” Electric vehicles are a sustainable solution for the future. We’ll have to change if we want to maintain our current standards of living.

At the end of August, I’m hoping to set one last record with KillaJoule. The goal is 482 km/h (300 miles per hour). If I achieve that, I’ll send KillaJoule into its well-earned retirement, and an even faster motorcycle is already on the drawing board. Next year I’ll most likely be teaching engineering design at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, where my new “baby” will probably be born. The working name is “Green Envy” because it will be green—both virtually and literally—and will surely spark envy. It will be designed for 650 km/h and the goal is to make it the world’s fastest motorcycle, period. That would be magic squared!


EVA HAKANSSON, 35, was born in Sweden and has been living in the US since 2008. She inherited her love of motorcycles from her father, who was an avid racer himself.

DIY Record Breaker 

You want to build the fastest E-Motorbike in the world? This Do-It-Yourself guide outlines the basic components.