Climate-change activist puts coal miners in the driver's seat of a Tesla to see how they react.
Over the years, Tesla has won over many a skeptic by putting them in the driver’s seat and inviting them to take a drive. A recent article in The Guardian tells the story of Australian engineer-turned climate change activist Daniel Bleakley, who has made it his mission to convert some unlikely prospects—folks who work in the coal industry.
Bleakley grew up in Clermont in Queensland. The town is a major hub for several large coal mines in the region, and it’s not the sort of place you would expect to find a lot of EV fans—most residents drive heavy-duty pickup trucks (which they call utes) when they’re not driving giant coal-extraction machinery.
Mr. Bleakley’s automotive tastes are a little more progressive—he owns a Tesla Model 3 Performance, and he loves to demonstrate its features, especially its three-second 0-60 time, to his neighbors. He started making videos of these impromptu test drives, and this grew into an entire YouTube channel called Coal Miners Driving Teslas.
When people experience Tesla’s head-snapping acceleration for the first time, they tend to use colorful language. The Guardian warns that the videos are “heavily spiced with unbridled swearing.” One of Bleakley’s friends, “Clermont’s biggest car nut,” describes the takeoff as “like a rocket ship.”
“I’ve known him since I was a kid. He owns these incredible high-performance V8s,” Bleakley says. “To see him drive the Tesla and love the car for me was really special. That was when I realized I was really onto something.”
Above: Compilation of coal miners driving a Tesla for the first time; Warning: reactions include plenty of profanity (YouTube: Guardian Australia)
Bleakley hopes to accomplish more than just winning over a few petrol-heads. One of his guests at the wheel was Bob Katter, a Member of the Australian Parliament. Katter screams “Yee-haw!” as the Model 3’s instant torque pins him to his seat, and calls the ride “exciting and thrilling.” The independent MP says he’d like to see Australia develop its own EV and battery industry.
Australia has fallen far behind other developed countries in the EV transition. Plug-in vehicles accounted for only 0.6% of new car sales in 2019, and little or no government support for EVs is available. In 2019, EVs became a bone of contention in the Australian federal election. Prime Minister Scott Morrison characterized EVs as a threat to Australians’ beloved SUVs, and accused his election opponent, who advocated more government support for EV adoption, of wanting to “end the weekend.”
That seems to have set the tone for Australia’s EV policy, or lack thereof, ever since. Awareness of EVs is low, but Bleakley, who spent years working in the oil industry and mining industries, hopes to do his bit to change that—one Ludicrous takeoff at a time.
“I thought [climate change] was a future problem,” he tells The Guardian. “But in the last few years I’ve realized it’s here and now, and we have to act.” He now devotes most of his time to environmental activism, and he sees the excitement of driving an EV as a good way to win converts for the cause.
“Traditional activism is about saying stop, or saying no,” he says. “But this is saying, ‘Here’s an incredible spaceship from the future and you can drive it.’ It’s a future we can all have if we choose it.”