How I Became Part of Tesla’s Citizen Army

In Vermont, they call me The Tesla Guy. I have a habit of getting into the middle of things. I guess you could say that I was born to organize—people, that is. In the 1990’s, I founded the Vermont chapter of the Ferrari Club of America. They called me The Ferrari Guy. Clearly, my initial attraction to the Tesla Model S was rooted in beautiful and fast automobiles. But after a few months of Model S ownership, it became a lot more than that.

I ordered my Model S in September 2012, only a few months after Tesla began producing them. The Fremont, CA factory was still in ramp-up mode, so I wouldn’t receive my car for six months. That delay gave me a chance to familiarize myself with Tesla’s technology and the company’s mission. I began participating in Tesla online forums and became a regular commenter on various news sites about all things Tesla. Although I didn’t know it, I’d become part of Tesla’s citizen army.

The citizen army began to emerge in the fall of 2012, around the time that many Wall Street “experts” were predicting Tesla’s demise. I wondered how many of those experts had even seen a Model S in the flesh, let alone driven one. Also around that time, the web was becoming populated with faux news sites—actually, blogs posing as news sites but without the editorial oversight. Articles about Tesla became a staple on these sites because Tesla’s name generates web traffic.

What interested me about these faux news sites, was not the articles, but instead, the comment sections where one can witness great battles being waged between defenders of gasoline and proponents of electric mobility. In 2012, Tesla was the dark horse. Its online defenders were outnumbered. When I saw how Tesla’s mission was being misrepresented, I jumped into the fray. I gathered technical information about AC induction motors and lithium batteries so I could respond intelligently to the anti-EV rhetoric. The gasoline defenders were determined to prove that electric cars would never catch on—and that they offered no real environmental benefit.

"There’s nothing like hearing from someone who’s actually lived with a Tesla for a year or two."

By 2014, the tide shifted. The Model S had racked up some impressive accolades from both a performance and safety standpoint. Automotive journalists were running out of superlatives. You could see a shift in the online battles. There were a lot more people getting behind Tesla, and many of them knew what they were talking about.

Change doesn’t come easily for some people, but migrating away from fossil fuels is one change that must happen.

I’ve been supporting Tesla’s mission in other ways, as well. I volunteer at Tesla test-drive events in our region, offering prospective buyers an owner’s point of view on Tesla ownership. Tesla’s sales associates are very well trained, but there’s nothing like hearing from someone who’s actually lived with a Tesla for a year or two. I’ve also assisted the Tesla Supercharger Team in identifying potential Supercharger sites in my area, including the one that just opened here in South Burlington.

Many of my friends think I work for Tesla, but that’s not the case. As a member of Tesla’s citizen army it might be more accurate to say that I work with Tesla. We share the same mission.

Todd R. Lockwood is a noted portrait photographer and a writer from Burlington, Vermont.