Cold Weather Reveals A Tesla Advantage


Engineered to keep battery in the Goldilocks zone.

The heart of an electric vehicle is its battery. How it’s engineered can make huge differences that may not be apparent at first blush. In the video above, EV YouTuber Bjorn Nyland points out an issue with some new battery-powered vehicles that may help you appreciate how much Tesla got right with its first new-from-the-ground-up Model S. It’s all about cold-weather charging.

In the footage, Nyland begins by recounting his time recently with the new Kia e-Niro (it will be called the Niro EV in the U.S.). By all accounts, the compact electric crossover is pretty great, but no car is perfect. We suggest you take the time to watch the full 22-minute video, but basically, he found that he couldn’t take full advantage of the power available from high-speed chargers in cold weather. This is because lithium batteries, as they exist today, cannot charge or discharge as quickly in the cold as they can at higher temperatures.

This means that even if you pull up to a 150 kW charger, for example, you may only be able to see much lower power rates. This is because the battery management system (BMS) will curtail the power to protect the cells. As power flows in, the temperature of the cells may rise and allow higher energy levels, but it’s unlikely you’ll reach the same power amounts as on a warm summer day.

Of course, for most owners charging at home, this is not an issue they’ll have to deal with. If they do, they only real issue would be that stops at charging stations could be longer than expected. And as we inferred above, the issue isn’t limited to the Kia crossover. Nyland reports that the Hyundai Kona Electric can also suffer from this same shortfall, as can the more upscale Jaguar I-Pace.

One brand that seems not to be similarly affected is Tesla. Nyland recounts that even his 2013 Model S could charge at the normal Supercharger speeds in the dead of winter. The Tesla pack is designed to keep its cells in the Goldilocks zone — not too hot, not too cold — using a mixture of insulation, heating, and cooling.

He does mention, however, that this may not be every Tesla owner’s experience. Interestingly, he theorizes that when travelers use the navigation system to route to a Supercharger, the car knows to prepare the battery so that the cells will be at an appropriate temperature upon arrival. If they just happen to stop at the company’s high-speed charging location, they may not be quite as prepared and take a bit more time.

It all just goes to show that, contrary to comments you might read on the internet — even sometimes from seasoned automotive writers — building an electric car isn’t just a matter of stuffing batteries in a box and then using the energy to power electric motors that have existed for the past century. There is a lot of sophisticated software and technology involved. While we have every confidence that vehicles from all brands will improve over time, it seems clear to us that in this respect, at least, Tesla is ahead of the game.

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78 Comments on "Cold Weather Reveals A Tesla Advantage"

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No observation found about the ioniq sofar (about decreased fast charging speed), curious if and why that car does not have this issue

No Tesla has a chance against the Audi e-tron:

Um, without further context/explanation your remark simply comes across as trolling.

The graph in the video speaks for itself. The Tesla begins to reduce the charge power at aprox 40% SOC and falls and falls. That is too bad.

The charge graph of the Audi e-tron is near of my Kia Soul EV or a Hyundai Ioniq. You can charge within 30 minutes to aprox 80 – 90% SOC and you are on the road again. Perfect!

Its a nice graph showing eTrons strengths but we are talking here about cold weather charging. How does eTron handle that?

Off topic, but nice to see that.
But one thing sting me is that the coming e-tron need more fast charging then other because it also deplete faster.
So not alway’s a winning tech.

Interesting. I shouldn’t underestimate German efficiency/engineering. I can’t wait to see them unfold.

Apparently German engineering is roughly 8 years behind Tesla.

Lower-range = faster-charging?

It is typical choice for Li Ion batteries. All good features are possible, but not at the same time 😉 You choose higher power or higher capacity. You can buy “power” or capacity cell versions from most producers.

The graph in the video speaks for itself.

TBH, e Tron missed the boat. Their battery range is pathetic for what it costs while being so slow.

I read the titles on that chart. I notice the Audi was PRE-PRODUCTION!

In other words, the amazing charge curve was NOT for the model in production.

Now how about pointing to a chart that shows what the final Audi charge curve is!

Except that is matters not the kwh you can put in the battery but the range increase you can get.

The biggest thing that I see people get wrong is that QCing is not about getting to 80% charge, it is about getting to your destination. The goalpost is wrong.

Model 3 LR has a 330 mile range (artificially nerfed). If you go on a 400 mile journey that requires gaining about 100 miles – not getting to 80%. You never need to get to 80%.
So you drive 250-300 miles and then charge. You need 100 miles and that takes 10 minutes.

Do that in an Etron. You drive 200 miles and need a charge. To make it with one stop, you need to get to 90% and that takes 40 minutes (guessing obviously). You also became much more restricted on charging location.

So 4 times the charging time despite better taper and faster charging (based on kw). Obviously a cherry picked example and you could do a 75X and find the etron wins out … maybe. Lets wait until we have real world data. And lets also not expect that Tesla will sit still.

Yes and no … of course both numbers are inherently related. Different cars different results. Comparing Soul and e-tron or Tesla makes no sense in my opinion.

Careful reader understands what is important when judging or choosing an EV in their future purchase.

As for charging goal posts and charging. The goal post is how quickly you get to your destination. Charging to 100% isn’t the fastest way. That can be slower aND hare on your batter life expectancy. Charging to 80% or less may be faster because the charging rate remains high. Two stops charging at a high rate may be faster than one stop charging to 100%.

Checkout Youtube’s ‘News Couloumb’ aND find the episode on charging strategy. He drives a Bolt for 70,000 mi on FC and is a wealth of information for EVs in general.

Yes, the e-tron seems to be very good at charging!
And the e-tron needs to be very good at charging, as the efficiency is very poor.
29kwh per 100km at 120km/h is not very efficient

Unlike Nissan Leaf, a proper EV can heat and cool the battery to a defined temperature. However this is not a Tesla only feature. A BMW i3 from 2013 can do the same and even recover heat energy with it‘s heat pump.

Where’s the video proving the i3 can charge quickly in the cold?

I could show you any EV charging at it‘s maximum current at any temperature. It doesn’t depend on ambient temperature but rather on battery temperature. A big HV battery needs hours, maybe days days to cool down when parked and depending on the car‘s thermal management minutes to hours to precondition accordingly.

So – in which situation would you like to see the comparison?

According to the video we just saw, you’re wrong. In cold weather one guy drove an iPace for over 280km and never got it warm enough to fast charge, An uninsulated battery will not heat up when driving on the highway at say -10C. You have immense air cooling happening.

Unfortunately, the i3 BEV’s heat pump doesn’t recover any waste heat from the drive motor, electronic modules, or battery pack. Instead, it transfers heat from outside air passing through the heat exchanger below the front bumper into the cabin which loses efficiency as the ambient temperature drops. Nevertheless, this reduces or eliminates the electricity consumption of the inefficient electrical resistance elements in the cabin heater.

What about Chevy Bolt EV? How does it handle charging in the cold conditions?

Slowly. After a cold soak at 0-10 deg F I could only charge at 24 kw. To get to that rate took some time as the car warmed up the pack to even allow that charge rate.

The Bolt has a dedicated chiller and heater for the battery. If the car is outside and cold you just remote start and and battery and cabin is conditioned. Plugging in to charge from dead cold the battery is automatically conditioned for a home 220v charge.

If You’re traveling the battery should be within charging tolerance but chiller or heater keeps the battery at correct temp if plugged into high voltage DC.

I’ve never detected an issue on account of temp.

Except when you fly home and get your car out of long term parking. Temperature was between 0 and 10f for most of the week, so the car was good and cold soaked. No chance of preheating.

As an example, I drove about 10 miles to a charger to add enough to get home. Took almost 1.5 hours to charge up enough to get home. Charge rate started at about 18kw, then quickly ramped up to 24kw as the pack warmed up. I needed to add 20-25kwh to get to about 40kwh in the pack to go the 60 miles between the charger and home. A climb of 2300ft, 65-75 mph speeds and cold weather all put effiency at slightly less than 2m/kWh.

Curious about the capacity of the charger you were using. I’m seeing not quite 350v and over 100 amps around here and hoping for faster chargers to be installed. I know some early models were only about 25 kw. The on board heater would start before hooking up the charging session, and then charging would power the heater, and charging itself warms the battery. It’s a lot of mass but the question is, did you use the charger capacity or did the car limit it? The temp can limit use of car if it is too cold as I understand it.

What temps are you talking about?

I’m at an M3 owners group on Facebook (picking up mine this Friday!!) and there is a ton of conversation there about cold weather battery prep and how you have to really plan it out, even with a Model 3. Essentially, if you roll into a Supercharger after the car has been sitting in cold weather all day, the charge rate will be much slower than you expect. One driver reported that he only gets the full rate of charge if he’s driven around 100 miles first (or of-course had it pre-heating the battery remotely, which is the recommended course).

Driving a BEV in cold weather certainly does take more planning ahead than driving a gasmobile. That’s a situation that I expect will improve as the EV revolution advances, and EV tech moves out of the early adopter era.

I can’t help but compare this situation to my family’s first (1980 top-loading) VCR. You had to do a lot of things on that manually which later generations of VCRs did automatically.

It is an issue with Teslas, too. Supercharging rates are much lower than normal if the car has been sitting in -30’C temps.

On the other hand, an ICE car may not even start at that temp.

The limit for starting my TDI was -12f. Beyond that the problem was the battery was so cold it could not turn the engine over fast enough to start. If you warmed the battery up it would start at lower temperatures.

That’s nothing compared to fuel gelling in a diesel. Forgetting to put in #1 diesel….OW my tenders!

Electrically heated diesel fuel filters were in use few decades ago. Some big trucks may have even fuel lines heated and run on regular summer fuel in winter.

Even then, they just keep the engine running 24/24 7/7, otherwise they can’t get them running anyway.
This is of course upnorth in the N-W-T and anywhere over 45° lat.

45° lat. is Southern France. Maybe you mean 65° lat. and lousy old trucks with half dead starter batteries.

45º is also Minneapolis, which, unlike France, is not heated by the ocean currents. I assure you that -10ºF in January is not remarkable.

Diesel trucks have a return fuel line that comes out of the block or next to the block to warm fuel in the tanks while running.

Where do you get summer fuel in winter? All the stations change to winter fuel.

Exactly! This is my friend and me testing Model S on a new years day 2015. The Model S was left parked at -8°C with about 75% SOC, driven to SC for about 10km and plugged into the SC.
It took quite some time for a battery to heat up for real charging to start up:

Where you at that you below -22F. Here in the Midwest that’s once a year. In Ohio it’s been since 2014

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Why isn’t there a feature for EV’s where you can pre-condifion the battery and/or cabin using juice from the plug when it is plugged in the wall?
Most of this uses the juice from the battery even when it’s still plugged in. More so if the car is fully charged but still plugged in, it uses the battery juice sucking up your miles…….lol

I mean c’mon, it’s plugged into the wall for pete’s sake!

Many EVs do have this.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

You’re telling me once the EV is fully charged and stops charging at 1AM and when my scheduled cabin preheat kicks on it will draw from the wall?????

Myself and other EV owners of LEAF and KIA show that is definately NOT the case. We check our energy draw from our SMUD tracker and there is no increase in energy draw during the time cabin preheat occurs. My Openvese never shows power draw at those times either. Others with Juicebox found that same thing.

Yes, the BMW i3 has a ConnectedDrive feature to pre heat the battery based off your departure time. Looks like it sends a 1 kw? charge into the battery for a short duration, approximately 2 hours before your planned departure. Yesterday, with 24 F degree morning, it seems to have used about 1.8 kWh to pre-condition the battery.

Optionally, you can program it to pre-condition the cabin with heat too.
This will leave you with a warm battery, a warm cabin and 100% battery charge.
Then you unplug and drive.

The energy used to warm the battery, you get back with better miles per kWh efficiency, and you can put the car into Eco-Pro mode ( reduced heat ), because the cabin is already warm.

The power draws are determined by the charger in the car. The charge point just responds. Split charging is programmable in charge settings. If necessarry you can manipulate the charging with fake ‘peak electric cost’ settings.

Yes, my EV draws from the wall for preconditioning if the battery is full.

My i3 does this. In winter, if I plug in at least 3 hours prior to scheduled departure, it heats the battery up in addition to preconditioning the cabin. Voila, my winter range becomes the same as summer range after that.

So those the battery as well?

The battery is warmed, yes, otherwise, BMW i3 displays reduced power bars on the primary driver screen. With a pre-conditioned battery you get your full 8 bars of power. If you let the car sit for 2 or more cold days, battery power can be reduced to 4 bars, until it warms up from use. But, that can take a while.

I believe all EVs sold in reasonable numbers heat the cabin from the wall.
Most of the time pre conditioning the battery from the wall is not really necessary. Why? – because in 2018 most EVs are parked in garages and very few of them are cold enough to be a problem.
Even if the garage is pretty cold – mine got own to 46 yesterday – charging will warm the battery. So the experienced just charge in the morning. And 46 isn’t much of an issue anyway – that being said, my S is charging right now.

I believe it’s better to charge the battery, in winter, right after you arrive home, while the battery is still warm. You can still pre-condition in the morning as that will just light up the heater element in the battery.

Better yet, split charge with immediate charging up to a certain % of battery with the final charge based on ETD time. Keeps the battery warm all night. And it’s ready to go in the morning. Then ‘precondition’ to warm the cabin from the wall power. There’s enough battery insulation to keep things warm.

There is obviously something wrong with this video/article. Tesla packs charging slower in the winter is a very apparent thing. Anyone with a Tesla that has driven it in sub freezing weather will tell you the battery performance, regen and charging is limited. I can literally go supercharge right now and guarantee that it will start at less than 40kw before the pack warms up

Did you watch the video? The car wouldn’t even charge at full speed after driving it for hours and at only 0 deg C not even very cold.

I watched the video. Bjorn was saying, WHEN YOU TRIP PLAN a Tesla, it sees you approaching a SuperCharger station and warms the battery itself to optimal temperature, and then you charge at the max rate. But, only observed using the Trip Planner.

More BS negative spin by serial anti-Tesla Jaydee.
ALL BEVs charging rates can be affected by extreme cold.
Bjorn points out that Tesla,s are LESS affected then the other brands because they have a powerful 6kw battery heater and he believes that Tesla also insulates their battery packs.

Well, that’s just not true. Some Teslas have real problems with the cold too. And some other EVs does not.

All cars, if left to sit for days will charge slow, to warm up the battery.
But, Tesla, if you TRIP PLAN, will additionally pre-heat the battery while you APPROACH the SuperCharger, and charge immediately at Max Rate.

This is great programming.
It’s like Tesla is at Version 4.0 and everyone else is still Version 0.9 Beta.

I never step into a cold car, I never go to gas station, I never hold car keys, I never turn off for idling.
Those are things I do with Teslalienology.

Don’t you mean…
I get my Butler to warm my car, fill it with energy, drive me everywhere etc etc

🙂 🙂

Why so many downvotes? The last 3 are modern EV things always. The first one just takes some planning (and an EV thing). So all of these things are true.

3 out of 4 is available on any modern gas car. Keyless entry and pte-heating is common, start-stop motors too. But you need to fill up.

Interesting comment Bjorn made about the Tesla having a 6 kw battery heater – that’s quite large and apparently explains why the charging rate is maintained during cold conditions. My Bolt ev heater seems to be around 2 kw, and will heat its 57-60 kwh (depending on degradation) battery reasonably quickly – but Tesla, due to the huge heater seems to have zero problems keeping itself warm.

Charge speed in the video dropped down to 39kW. Sadly, most CCS chargers here are 50kW, so it’s not that big loss. Since battery is on the floor, I wonder if the battery gets cooled to much from the icy air passing below. And if fact the battery would get warmer by just driving slower.

That’s why Tesla batteries are insulated.
All batteries should be insulated.

Insulation keeps heat in. Great for winter, not so good for summer, where you then need to beef up the cooling system to deal with the additional heat not being lost to the air.

I was going to say… this wasn’t news-worthy in 2013? The news part is that 2018 vehicles don’t have a battery temperature management system that keeps up. I’ve enjoyed taking my Tesla on winter road trips in 2013 and blogged about it. I remember reading a blog about a GM BoltEV owner taking a road trip and having a cold-soaked battery. I guess high performance in the era of EVs has a lot of nuances that don’t translate to the ICE world.

But then again, who doesn’t chuckle at all the ICE owners sitting in their car letting those engines warm up?

That’s one great thing about the BMW i3 REX. It’s electric heater gets to full heat in less then a minute under the coldest conditions. I presume the other EV’s are the same.

This is Hugely Superior to a gas engine car that on cold days can take 20 minutes to get up to temperature.

It takes my ICE <5 minutes to warm the cabin, even when it's -20 outside (like a couple of days ago).

Very Insightful, Informative & Accurate Video ! Very Much Appreciated*. I’ve Not Heard of Any Cold Weather Issues from Canadian Tesla Owners That I Know Thus Far . This Fortifies What I Concluded Years Ago . Tesla Is Indeed a *Superior Product* . I Have always Been Leary and Questioned All The Other EV Brands . ….. *TESLA IS FOCUSED ON EV’s ONLY* ….. This Now Confirms What I Had Surmised Long Ago… . * 🙂 * YEAH TESLA !

Unfortunately it’s quite a common issue on Canadian Teslas, just like most others. Some refuse to charge entirely for quite a while until warmed up. For example:

And -10C isn’t even that cold in Canada…

Dear Moderator , Why Is it That My Insights/Posts are Always Disrespected By Being BURIED DEAD LAST ? As Soon as I Post ? I Believe They Should Be Placed In the Order which They Are Received ! … I Believe My Posts are Constructive , Supportive and Add Value Your Agenda * I Put Much Thought And Time To Write These . If My Opinion Matters This Little To You , Please Let Me Know & I Shall Refrain From Posting On This Sight … I Remain …..

I have no idea what you mean about the posts. They publish at the time that they are written. I have said before that if you use all caps and strange punctuation, they may immediately go to moderation. However, once I find them there, I approve them. So, you shouldn’t be having any issues with your posts being held up. Do you have an example?

Punctuation & The Use Of Caps Shouldn’t Have Anything to do With Placement of these Blogs … BTW ..Posts Are Not held Up , They always go Directly to the bottom of the page , that is what i was questioning.. Cheers !

Because the first posts are at the top, and subsequent posts are at the bottom. It makes far more sense than many sites that have the latest posts at the top, so you have to scroll down to the bottom before reading up for any comment chains to make sense.

Well this does not bode well for none Tesla EVs. I look forward to more info on this as Jags ans Hyundai EVs get more wide spread.

Cells are electro chemical devices, they can not take lots of charge current when cold.

My model S 100D suffers drastic reductions in Supercharging speed in cold weather if the car hasn’t been driven for at least 50 miles immediately before charging.

On one recent morning, overnight temp about 20 degrees, I stopped at a nearby Supercharger nine miles from my house, and the initial charge rate was only 9 kW–slower than my normal 10-kW charge rate at home. (Battery level was about 10 percent.)

As time went by and the battery warmed up, the charge rate increased, but never approached the 115 kW that I typically get in warm weather at low states of charge.

This would not be a problem in the normal Supercharging scenario–charging after a long high-speed run along an Interstate–because the battery would be warmed up by the long drive.

But my sense is that Teslas–or at least my 100D–are much more sensitive to battery temperature restrictions on the charge rate than other EVs.

Does not your Tesla offer you battery pre-conditioning?