Tesla Model 3 RWD Versus An Icy Hill: Video


Another round of Tesla Model 3 winter testing.

Winter and cold weather-related EV videos and articles are quite the rage as of late. This is especially true when it comes to those that feature the Tesla Model 3. This makes perfect sense since Jack Frost has decided to show his ugly face early this year, and he seems to be in rare form. In addition, very few people owned a Model 3 last winter, so this is new information. How does the Model 3 fare on an icy hill? Can it get traction? Will it stop? How do those automatic windshield wipers work?

While the small Tesla sedan is a newbie compared to most EVs available in the U.S., a massive number of people are taking delivery of the car on a daily basis. In fact, Model 3 deliveries this winter season are to a level we’ve never seen before in the segment, and that’s an understatement. Let’s not forget that some Model 3 vehicles feature rear-wheel drive, which many believe is not the best option for winter driving.

In order to keep you informed, we’ve shared plenty of articles (see above) and videos pertaining to the Tesla Model 3’s abilities (or lack thereof) in light snow, deeper snow, ice, and cold in general. Hopefully, this is helpful to current EV owners, as well as those who are considering taking the plunge and purchasing a Model 3 (or any electric car) this winter. Yes, there are surely significant differences between this Tesla and competing electric vehicles, but our coverage should work to help all EV owners this winter.

To further inform fellow electric vehicle owners, please share your winter/cold weather EV experiences in our comment section and on our Forum.

Video Description via Tesla Canuck on YouTube:

In this video I take the Model 3 RWD out in fresh snow in daylight hours and try to make it up a hill (index is below to jump to sections of interest). I do get briefly stuck. I am using winter tires. I didn’t intend to talk about the auto-wipers but in a moment of frustration, I have to rant about them. They unfortunately suck.

Up the hill: 1:10
Stuck: 1:48
Auto-wipers suck: 2:50
Auto-wipers rant: 3:25
Down the hill full breaking: 5:00

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57 Comments on "Tesla Model 3 RWD Versus An Icy Hill: Video"

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Auto wipers are a must but they are still listed as beta and he should have mentioned that. Auto wipers adjust to four speeds. IMO the auto wipers need one more setting for a total of five. Anyway, I personally like that Tesla is aggressive and gives access to beta features in order to get feedback. To say a beta feature doesn’t work, well….

Also, who hammers it on a snowy surface even if it is flat let alone any grade?

Hi, M Hovis, don’t get me wrong, I like access to beta too! The wipers are more alpha in my opinion, at least on my Model 3. Also, I am not able to find anywhere in the settings or console where auto-wipers are labelled as beta in the Model 3. It could be that I missed it. Happy to be proven wrong here. Also, I hammered it because it is a test and that would be the worst case scenario of something someone might do from a dead stop on an icy slope. 🙂

It is stated in the owner’s manual. Heard they are improving in the next download so maybe moot.

There is ZERO reason why any auto manufacturer needs to reinvent the wiper system. Just buy the controller from Bosch or Nippondenso and move on, they’ve already figured it all out.

The reason is to cut cost.

There is a misconception that winter worthiness is about the car or about AWD. It is ALL about the tires. If you have a good set of winter tires, you can conquer winter. All of those people driving AWD with all seasons would have spun out on that hill, but even a dinky compact with RWD can conquer it with good tires on.

The AWD is a luxury item. It’s not needed but it does add confidence to the drive experience. When you have four tires pulling the car, you also have front tires that give you better directional control.

With rear wheel drive you can often feel the front tires slipping. With the front tires doing work they slip less.

I agree that winter tires are crucial for real winter conditions. However, the conditions I see in this video aren’t worst case scenario at all. At least it doesn’t compare to the normal winter conditions in my region regarding terrain. I often drive friends vehicles up my drive that is steep, twisty and narrow because they don’t have the experience or confidence to do themselves, especially when they’ve tried and failed and are worried they’ll fall into the deep ditch on one side. I am an expert in winter conditions and can negotiate my treacherous drive using all my tricks and experience. BUT, RWD vehicles are the worst and a FWD with proper tires is almost as good as Awd with good tires. Whether Tesla or not, RWD is the wrist configuration for winter conditions and hills with some caveats. Don’t mess with studs. There are better winter tires w/o them. And FWD characteristics mean paying attention to compression deceleration – meaning electric FWD should never have high regen going in very icy conditions. In any case, skillful driving is superior to depending on traction control. In fact, under very poor conditions I disengage traction control under tough conditions going… Read more »

FWD works better for ICE cars because you have the engine on top of the drive wheels. Having learned my winter driving in old FWD Saabs in snowy New England winters, I know that all too well. When you switch to electric cars, the FWD advantage over RWD goes away. The only time AWD can help you over either is if your drive wheels are in the ditch when you start driving and your other wheels are needed to pull yourself out. Once you are moving, AWD vs RWD vs FWD is a wash in an EV. All that matters is how much traction you have. That is all about the tires.

My rwd ICE has 51 percent weight on the rear axle so nonsense. It does great in the snow. F30 BMW with dws06 tires. All season.

Nonsense. Uphill the weight shifts to the real wheels. RWD has better traction uphill than fwd. My f30 BMW has 51 percent weight on the rear tires. It does great in the snow, even with all season tires. (Dws06 continental). The dealers put summer tires on rwd models. That’s why they get a bad rap, it’s ignorance, not reality. They wanna sell AWD, not tires.

You need both, AWD and snow tires if you live around hilly country with a lot of icy hills in the winter.

I have seen people slipping on hills with chains!!!

It seems to work very well, but I would still prefer AWD were I live because ice road and really fast temperature shift are common and demand very skilled driving and manner many times a winter.

So far Leaf FWD did OK, but I’m looking for better.

If you have frequent encounters with ice, your money should first go towards winter tires which will greatly decrease your stopping distances on ice (wher AWD does nothing!). A distance second place should be AWD.

Digital EV control will always trump any gasmobiles analogue controls and its turboes and air intake and fuel injections /carburetors and needing help from abs for traction control ,tires also matter much, get your winters on at first snowfall,it might save you from kissing that car ahead or the guardrail. All season tires are good for 3 seasons.

Don’t forget slush box and multi-gear transmissions, all add slack to the drive train.

Teslas use an open differential that requires using the brakes for traction control, just like any ICE car.

In EVs the response times are two orders of magnitude more responsive, it can adjust itself multiple times within a fraction of a second, there’s little latency between the motor and the wheels as it’s all just electrions rather than a slower chemical process and other moving parts connecting the system.


“—In the ICV, more than 200 ms are
needed to open the throttle actuator. The actual response
is much slower, because additional delay in the mechan-
ical system must be included. In contrast, the response
time of the electric motor torque is less than 10 ms”

That’s all very cool but it doesn’t really help you on ice. The whole point on ice is to never get into a situation where your wheels suddenly lock up.

Regardless of powertrain, how could you test a car in winter condition using “all-season” tires? As dan posts, it’s ALL about the tires, regardless of how many wheels are driven. The Finns manage to drive safely through the winter in a wide variety of 2WD and 4WD vehicles, but all are equipped with excellent winter tires.

Because that is what 90% of people do. Not many people actually use winter tires. So, how a Tesla performs without winter tires is perfectly fine to compare to other cars, also without winter ties.

If you live in Finland, you do not face that many steep roads with snow. The alps is a different ballgame altogether. The only thing that helps you out there is AWD+Winter tyres and chains. Especially when you go downhill! 🙂

I face one every day. Last winter on my FWD EV i had to do it a couple times in reverse (weight distribution & tread pattern helps a lot!). My wife has a 4WD ICE, no tricks needed ever.

He says he has winter tires on.

+DL is 100% correct. I am pretty sure that I mentioned it in the video plus I pinned a comment with the details of which tires I have. Cheers.

The Auto Wipers on my Model 3 are working well since software V9 came out.

I’m going to assume you do not have four snow tires on this Tesla. If you are going to drive in these winter conditions and not have dedicated snow tires you really shouldn’t be on the road. You are creating more risk for yourself and all other road users.

He says he has winter tires on.

Why did you not watch the video?

Maybe next time hire someone who can keep his calm and who doesn’t have to keep repeating s-h-I-t after every other word. Just saying.

The swearing in the video is completely classless for someone trying to represent a professional organization. You sound like a teenage youtuber. Didn’t even watch the rest of it, and will be more careful to get my EV news from legit grown up sources from now on.

We didn’t make the video, and Bjorn Nyland swears all the time and people think it’s funny and laugh it off. Actually, people request such video coverage. Sorry if the video offended you. We take great efforts to assure our posts and comment section doesn’t have swearing or derogatory remarks, unlike many other competing sites, which allow terrible cussing and demeaning posts on a regular basis. We take great pride in censoring our content, to the full extent that it actually limits traffic. My son uses YouTube all the time, but we have his iPad setup for an age restriction. Thus, since he isn’t an adult, he could never see this video. The swearing is not directed and we meant no harm. But, still, shares like this (regardless of some adult language) are very helpful to our readership.

+Steven this is such an eloquent reply, thank you. +Josh, it certianly wasn’t my intention to offend anyone; I do appreciate your feedback.


Steven, you frequently complain about all the vulgar posts submitted to comments on IEVs; why are you now praising vulgarity as if it’s entertaining?

Speaking for myself, I enjoy Bjørn Nyland’s videos, but only in small doses, because his vulgarity becomes tiresome quite quickly.

“Vulgarity is the effort of a weak mind to forcibly express itself.”

I’m not praising anything. I was responding to a comment. The vulgarity I speak of is people threatening me and my family and blatant and horrible threatening and degrading comments. I don’t appreciate any profanity and I agree with the quote you used. I’m just saying that there is surely swearing in some videos, and we have posted them anyway. If there has ever been a comment in the comment section about the profanity in a video like Bjorn’s, it’s usually someone laughing and typing …. shhhhheeeeyyyyat or the like. However, we’d never post a video with threats, sexual references, derogatory comments about race, etc. These are two completely different situations.

Yep auto wipers on my Tesla Model 3 also suck. Don’t come on fast enough, and when they do come on, they are wiping way too fast for the conditions. Need to tweak that algorithm.

On mine (no snow experience yet) also the wipers flail wildly as if trying to dry off he glass, but only at first. Then they start acting with more restraint.

GM’s auto wipers don’t always work as expected either. However, there is a manual control (wiper stalk) to override. The thing I like about GM’s is that it goes from mist to downpour fairly well. IOW, it adjusts the wiper speed depending on the rain volume. A simple mist control doesn’t do that.

Wow…. so yeah, the 3 did well. But I drove 4WD trucks (with snow tires) in Colorado for nearly 20 years. Three things I’d never do…. 1) stop on a hill like that if I could avoid it…. 2) drive that fast on an unplowed road. 3) slam on my brakes going downhill on an unplowed road.

It’s just common sense driving…..

That‘s why this is called testing.
Doubt that this is his everyday driving style.

+Hauer that’s exactly it. I test it so that others don’t have to. It is *not* the way I normally drive. +Kosh I appreciate your feedback. Cheers.

Yes of course we would not drive like that in a real situation, but as a test it is instructive.

Tires make a huge difference. If you can’t get traction it hardly matters what the propulsion system is. My guess is that with the right tires this would not be that much of a challenge.

The F/R weight distribution seems to correctly call for rear wheel drive on a Model 3 but the lack of traction shown here is a big disappointment. Driving in those conditions, regardless of tires, I’d opt for a fwd bev or phev. (awd shouldn’t be necessary but would be a nice luxury to have, also.)

No snow tires, no chains; trying to “hammer it” up a 10% incline, in 10 cm of snow, with no salt/gravel, is this guy for real?

How did the car get stuck half way up the hill? Doesn’t the car have traction control?

Hi, Jeff, as part of the testing, I stopped halfway up the hill on purpose. I wanted to see if I could get going on ice at that grade. Surprisingly, on the second more gentle attempt, I was able to get going *without* having to turn on slip-start. For a rear-wheel drive, I was impressed.

…and yes, it has one of the best traction control systems I have ever experienced.

I was wondering why, when you floored the car from stop at mid-hill, traction control did not step in to assist in moving the car further up along the hill.
Second part of the question is, you said you have the option to turn on “slip-start” . Most cars always have traction control on, with the option to switch it off. Is that to say Tesla default is to have traction control off? Or are there 2 different traction control functions?

Hi, Jeff, it is a good question. Had I left my foot hard on the accelerator, would traction control have figured out how to get moving with the “peddle to metal”. Maybe, I don’t know. I was on a public road, so I was worried about traffic coming up behind me to keep experimenting. Traction control is on by default. Slip-start (which needs to be enabled) allows the wheels to slip at a limited speed (up to 40 km/h 25 mph). This is useful for getting out of deep mud, snow, sand, or some kind of rut. Turning on slip-start is kind of like disabling traction control, up to the speeds that I mentioned. Only the performance model of the model 3 has the ability to completely disable traction control. I hope that this helps. Cheers.

agreed – auto wipers are horribly slow to react. They need to double the sensitivity. I have been complaining about it for a while – hopefully they do an over the air fix for the sensitivity… i find myself playing with 1,2 3 settings constantly which is frustrating. Car is AWESOME though… don’t want one negative comment to affect overall love of this vehicle. should be an easy tweak for them.

My auto wipers don’t come on soon enough. They can be turned on for one swipe by pressing button on turning signal arm without clicking. Often have to use manual setting. My all wheel drive Model 3 with standard tires and wheels has done well on snow covered roads in the Catskills this fall. Interesting and somewhat scary experience today in drive through car wash with me sitting in the car. First of all, turn wipers off. But beyond that, I put the car in neutral but less than half way through, I got a message that to prevent the car rolling in neutral, it put itself in park! I blew my horn and they stopped the belt. I got it back into neutral and got through the car wash without further trouble. I called my local Tesla service in Syosset, Long Island and spoke to a knowledgeable guy. I learned that for a car wash, the car should be in towing/transport mode. He thought a useful software fix would be a new ‘car wash mode’. With the number of deliveries, this issue should definitely be addressed.

Why are you on an icy hill with rear wheel drive without chains? Just asking for trouble. Grew up in the mountains of Idaho – not how it is done.

Studded tires in real snow country is the only way to go.

We totally agree on the auto wipers – inconsistent at best. Also find our RWD 3 with Michelin Xice3s to be amazing in snow.

The Model S RWD had very, very good traction control that people in cold climates in the US, Canada, and Europe have praised. I would be shocked if the Model 3 stunk by comparison.