All cars are affected by extreme temperatures, but electric vehicles are particularly susceptible to extreme heat or cold weather. That's mainly because the lithium-ion high voltage battery performs best when it is within the 20-degree temperature "sweet spot" of 60 to 80 degrees F.
With the winter months upon us, we think it's a good idea to go over some of the cold-weather problems that Tesla Model 3 owners might face, as well as some sage advice to avoid any potential problems. After all, there are roughly 100,000 new Model 3 owners in the US alone that took delivery since last winter and have never experienced living with an EV in the cold months.
That said, if you own a Model 3 and live in an area like San Diego, Ca, Miami, Fla, or Phoenix, Az, you're welcome to continue reading, but for amusement purposes only.
What To Expect
The first thing you'll probably notice when the temperatures begin to drop this time of the year is your Model 3 won't be able to go as far as it could when it was warmer. This is an unavoidable fact that all EV's share; the batteries don't perform as well when they are cold. The good news is the cold weather won't permanently harm the battery like extreme heat can, and once the battery warms up it's as good as it was before the freeze.
There are a couple of things you can do to mitigate range loss in the winter. First, use the new Scheduled Departure feature that Tesla recently added in a software update. This feature allows you to precondition the vehicle, so you leave in the morning with a fully charged and warm battery and a warm cabin. The act of charging the car in itself warms the battery, so by delaying the charging session to complete shortly before you leave in the morning, the battery will be warm without needing to use the stored energy in the pack to warm it once you leave.
There's another positive side effect from leaving in the morning with a warm battery, and that's you'll get to take advantage of the regenerative breaking at its fullest. When the battery is cold, it cannot accept a lot of energy, so the regenerative braking system is partially disabled. When this happens, you'll see an icon pop up on the driver's screen that warns you of the reduced regeneration.
When you see the notification, be prepared to use the friction brakes because the car will not slow down as strongly with lift-off regeneration as you're used to. In addition to the pop-up notification, you'll see some dots appear on the left side of the regen/power line under the speed display. The more dots, the more the regen is limited. You'll notice once you've driven the car for a while, they will disappear, as driving the car will also warm up the battery.
Precondition for Supercharging
Also, if you plan to use a Supercharger, make sure you use the navigation system to route you there even if you don't need the directions. That's because your Model 3 will begin to precondition the battery on the way to the Supercharger, so it will be warm enough to accept a high rate of charging. If you don't, and you arrive at the Supercharger with a cold battery, you won't get the full amount of power and your charging session will take longer.
Unfortunately, you can't turn Supercharging preconditioning manually, so you need to use the navigation system and it will turn on automatically once you enter the Supercharger as a destination.
Proper tire pressure
You'll also probably get a low tire pressure notification shortly after the temperatures drop down into the 30's for the first time of the season. That's because cold air is more dense, and causes the pressure to drop. This isn't Model 3 or even EV-specific, but it is worth noting as a reminder to add air to your tires once the temperatures drop. Get yourself a good quality tire pressure gauge and let the car sit outside in the cold for a few hours. Check the tire pressure when the tires car has been sitting a while and is cold, and add air as needed to meet the recommended tire pressure.
If you don't know what the tire pressure is, you can find that information on a sticker in the driver's side door jam. Having the proper tire pressure will also extend the life of the tires and add a few miles of range. Underinflated tires cause more friction, and will rob you of some range if left uncorrected.
Use the right tool for the job
If you happen to live in the northern states or anywhere it frequently snows, you might want to consider getting a dedicated set of winter tires. I'd definitely recommend doing so if you have a rear-wheel-drive Model 3. If you have the all-wheel-drive version then the all-season tires may be good enough. Personally, I still think it's best practice to have dedicated winter tires on during the months if you'll be frequently driving on icy and snow-covered roads.
You're going to get a little less range out of the car if you're wearing dedicated winter tires, but it's a tradeoff that I believe is worth the benefit. This is my first winter with my Model 3, so I haven't had the opportunity to drive it in the snow yet. However, I did drive a friend's rear-wheel-drive Model 3 last winter, and he had Michelin X-ICE X13 tires on it and they performed very well.
Tesla also offers snow chains for sale from their accessory page. Snow chains should only be used where they are legally allowed, so check with your local authorities before buying them. You can expect a significant loss of driving range while using snow chains on your Model 3.
Squeezing out more range
The seat heaters use significantly less energy than the cabin heater. If you need to squeeze out as much range as possible, using the seat heaters will allow you to rely less on the cabin heat, or even turn it off completely.
Then there's the gold-standard of extending your EV's driving range - simply slow down. This is true regardless of the temperature, but in the winter when your driving range is reduced, you may need a couple extra miles to make your destination. You'll find if you just drive 5 or 10 miles per hour slower on the highway, you'll add more than just a few miles to your driving range.
When driving on snow or ice-covered roads, activate "Chill Mode". Chill mode reduces the power to the motor, and significantly lessens the car's "instant torque". While that might not sound like fun, it will help you to keep the car under control when the road surface is slippery. Having less power at your command will help you keep the car from losing traction, and keep you in control.
Set regen to low
Setting the car's regenerative braking to the low setting will reduce the braking force when you lift off the accelerator. Strong lift-off regenerative braking can be a problem on snow-covered roads because the it can cause the vehicle to lose traction and possibly skid. It's best to change the setting from standard (if that's what you typically have it set to) to low when driving in inclement winter weather.
Silicone lubricant on windows
A number of Model 3 owners have reported having problems with their windows freezing up. When this happens the doors won't open and the owner cannot access the vehicle. You can eliminate that problem by applying a silicone lubricant to the window gasket. There are many products available that will work, like this one from 3M. If you live in an area that gets deep freezes in the winter, lubricating the window gasket is a good idea.
Model 3 accessories to make winter life easier
You may recognize the EVANNEX name from articles here on InsideEVs. EVANNEX maintains a Tesla news blog and is one of the best Tesla-centric sites on the net. EVANNEX is kind enough to allow InsideEVs to repost their articles on our site, which we do frequently. However, besides their Tesla news, EVANNEX also sells accessories for Tesla vehicles, and we were provided with some samples to use and report on.
All-Weather Floor Mats
The first thing I'd recommend getting is getting a good set of all-season floor mats. The standard carpeted floor mats that came with my Model 3 wouldn't do well in snow and icy conditions so I was deciding what brand of mats to get when I got the EVANNEX all-weather floor mats to try out.
After using these for a while I really like them. One reason is that they have hundreds of individual recessed "wells" that capture mud, snow, ice, etc. The mats aren't a single flat surface where melting snow can puddle up if you enter the vehicle with a lot of snow on your shoes. I was initially concerned because they don't have raised sidewalls, but after using them I see how the individual wells will keep liquid any melting snow localized, and prevent it from spilling off the end of the mats.
EVANNEX sells the mats for the front and rear seats, as well as for the trunk and frunk compartment. They even have a mat for the back of rear seats when they folded down so you can cover the entire floor surface of the trunk. As an alternative, WeatherTech also makes high-quality floormats for basically any vehicle on the market today.
Here are a few more EVANNEX accessories that make winter life with your Model 3 a little easier:
Rear seat pet cover
If you have a dog and like to chauffer him/her around in your Model 3, you probably want a rear seat cover. That becomes even more of a necessity in the winter when Fido's paws are covered in snow and mud. If you have the white interior, a rear seat pet cover is definitely a must-have.
Not too long ago Tesla started offering a key for the Model 3. It's basically for owners that weren't happy with using their cell phones or the key card to open and operate their Model 3. For $9.95, EVANNEX will sell you a silicone cover to protect the FOB from the elements, like if you drop it in a 4" puddle of slush while trying to pull the key out of your pocket.
You love your Model 3 and want to keep it looking great for a long time, right? EVANNEX's indoor/outdoor car cover will help you do just that. It's custom-designed to fit Model 3 contours and has a mesh opening to allow appropriate cooling airflow while the vehicle is charging. The Model 3 cover comes with a carrying bag and there's an optional bungee cord for owners who use the car cover in high wind environments.
Did we miss anything? Let us know what steps you take to make your EV life in the winter a little easier.