250 mph 3D printed electric motorbike

Swedish born Dr. Eva Håkansson is the “fastest woman on earth”, thanks to 3D printing. Using her custom built electric powered super-bike affectionately called KillaJoule, Håkansson is proving many things by achieving top speeds of 248.746 mph (400.2 kp): electric vehicles can be fast, women are terrific engineers and that 3D printing is democratizing manufacturing capabilities.

Every August, Håkansson takes over the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA where for 5 days she tests the improvements to the electric motorcycle. Dr. Håkansson worked on her bike with husband Bill Dubé. Håkansson, a PhD in Mechanical Engineering says that the “real purpose of the KillaJoule is what I call eco-activism in disguise. We want to change the general public opinion about electric vehicles and particularly changing the image that they’re slow … by building something that is so fast that nobody can ignore it.

Eva Hakansson. Image via University of Denver
Eva Hakansson. Image via University of Denver

Enter 3D printing

Aided by the LulzBot TAZ 3D printer, Håkansson has manufactured an increasing amount of components for KillaJoule. “It’s opened a whole new dimension of manufacturing,” Håkansson said. “You can do things you can’t even dream of making otherwise.

Using PLA filament, which is in keeping with her environment friendly vision since its biodegradable, she has designed key elements such as spoilers and leading edges for her bike. Other elements in her project use different materials, such as the speedometer housing which uses INOVA-1800, premium material that debuted in Q1’16 at CES.

If you compare to what it costs to have parts made or the time you would spend machining something similar or building it with using other methods, 3D printed parts are super cheap,” reflected Håkansson. “You can have maybe a 24-hour print, but you don’t have to watch it for 24 hours. You just load it and then you go and do something else, so we consider the machine time almost free.”

KillaJoule on the Utah salt flat. Image via University of Denver
KillaJoule on the Utah salt flats. Image via University of Denver

A Growing Trend

Projects such as KillaJoule prove that 3D printing is allowing more complex and ambitious projects to be built in a faster and more financially accessible fashion. 3D printing technology shows a promising future for the motorcycle and automotive industries, and perhaps more interestingly, it allows for the inclusion of amateurs, without the backing of a vast team of mechanics, into new fields.

Being able to build a vehicle that reaches over 240 mph with a small team and limited equipment is the type of feat that attracts the right type of attention. As 3D printing continues to evolve, the initial hype is rapidly disappearing into the rear view mirror.