Whereas most kinesins motor along microtubules, KinI kinesins are microtubule depolymerizing machines. Surprisingly, we found that a KinI fragment consisting of only the motor core is capable of ATP-dependent depolymerization. The motor binds along microtubules in all nucleotide states, but in the presence of AMPPNP, microtubule depolymerization also occurs. Structural characterization of the products of AMPPNP-induced destabilization revealed a snapshot of the disassembly machine in action as it precisely deformed a tubulin dimer. While conventional kinesins use the energy of ATP binding to execute a "powerstroke," KinIs use it to bend the underlying protofilament. Thus, the relatively small class-specific differences within the KinI motor core modulate a fundamentally conserved mode of interaction with microtubules to produce a unique depolymerizing activity.