Bob Katter in a Tesla (Image: Supplied)

Bob Katter seems to enjoy his first time in a Tesla. A video, shot from the back seat, shows the federal member for Kennedy experiencing what it’s like to be in an electric vehicle accelerating from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in just over three seconds.

“Yeehaw!” he yells. “This is so exciting.”

The eccentric MP was filmed as part of the video series Coal Miners Driving Teslas. It’s exactly what it sounds like: creator Daniel Bleakley lets coalminers from central Queensland drive his Tesla and documents their gleeful reactions.

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His short videos about these rides have gone viral, showing people blown away by their first experience with the green technology.

Bleakley is a Queensland native himself. After training as a mechanical engineer and working abroad, he worked in the mining industry in Western Australia. After losing his job during the global financial crisis, he started a printing company.

“I’ve been growing it ever since but now I’ve stepped away to focus on climate activism. I’ve done a few actions with Extinction Rebellion, did a 10-day hunger strike. I was arrested for gluing myself to the Siemens window,” he said.

“I put my life on hold to agitate for change.”

Alarmed by scientific reports that laid out the need for immediate climate action, Bleakley has put his job to the side and focused on climate activism for the past few years.

About 18 months ago, he bought a Tesla. Bleakley was blown away by the car. He said he’s tried to give as many lifts as possible to show off the potential of electric vehicles.

When he went back to his hometown in Mackay a few weeks ago, he lent his car to his brother, who works as a coalminer. Two weeks ago, his brother took the car over to show some of his work colleagues.

“I said that he should take some videos of them driving. He put them in the driver’s seat straight up. The first video is of a guy with a goatee … he had this really amazing reaction when he put his foot down and wasn’t expecting to see the acceleration. I thought, we could really be onto something here,” Bleakley said.

Since then, Bleakley’s posted 17 videos to his YouTube channel of men and women — occasionally still in hi-vis gear — hooning down highways in the electric vehicle. And he says the reaction from both the drivers and the people watching the videos has been amazing.

“I’ve taken my friend, all of his uncles and cousins and aunties, and they’re all instantly converted. It’s powerful because it shows people who would not normally engage with clean technology,” he said.

Bleakley said the video series has been an eye-opener for him as a climate activist. In the past, he’s felt the tension when he, as a local with family in the fossil fuel industry, talks or posts to social media about climate change and the need for urgent action. The reception to these videos has been very different.

He plans to keep making the videos and hopes to crowdfund enough to support him making the videos up until the next election. Bleakley thinks these short, casual videos are making a difference.

“I think it’s because they’re about bringing people along for the ride. It’s not confrontational,” he said.

“Instead of saying ‘we need to stop doing this’ we’re saying ‘here’s a spaceship from the future that will help improve our living standard for everyone’.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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