Tesla Model S Range In Sub-Zero, Snowy Weather

FEB 27 2015 BY MARK KANE 31

Tesla Model S In Europe

Tesla Model S In Europe

Teslarati recently released an interesting article on the Tesla Model S range drop at sub-zero temperatures and in snowy weather.

Electric cars typically lose some range, mainly because of the need to turn on the heater, but there are other reasons like a cold battery with lower efficiency, lower regenerative braking and higher rolling resistance.

The main question is how big of a drop one could one expect in these conditions.

According to the Teslarati’s data collected through January, it seems that in the worst case you can lose over 40% of range in snow and icy conditions at 10°F (-12°C), compared to clear roads at 40°F (4°C).

The difference between 10°F and 40°F is some 22% loss in range, while between snow/ice and clear road it’s 25% at the same temperature.

Here is the table for 85 kWh version, which is rated at 265 miles:

Tesla Battery Range in Sub-Zero and Snowy Conditions

Tesla Battery Range in Sub-Zero and Snowy Conditions

“This analysis is based on data I collected on my car over the course of one month and during a variety of winter conditions. I found it really eye opening to see the rated range of my Model S  go from 265 to a real world average of 143 miles during the winter (90% charge, 40% range degradation). For the 60kW model this would be 112 miles.

Fortunately Tesla appears to be placing Superchargers closer together which will help alleviate any issue with running out of range because of winter weather conditions.

How do you best prepare for winter driving in your Tesla Model S?

  • Expect to use (on average) 40% more power during the winter.
  • Expect to lose about 10 miles of real range for every 10 degree drop.
  • If the roads aren’t dry expect to lose up to 25% more range.
  • Plan your charging and driving accordingly — don’t cut it close.”


Categories: Tesla

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

31 Comments on "Tesla Model S Range In Sub-Zero, Snowy Weather"

newest oldest most voted

Grrr Québec -22 :Nissan leaf range 40 miles top .
cold climat needs at least
40 kiltwatt bat for normal use.

Celsius or Fahrenheit?

Frédérick St-Laurent


Thanks. This cold weather range information is helpful. I’m considering buying a used LEAF to keep exclusively at a ski house in the mountains, and taking a ski bus to go to and from my home and ski house. -22 C = -8 F, a temperature the LEAF would see at the ski house a couple of times during the winter.

Puts the New York Times’ supercharger article (in which the reporter runs out of juice in cold weather), and subsequent Elon Musk hissyfit, in a new light.

No, it doesn’t begin to even address the issue.

The primary loss Broder experienced was while parked at a motel overnight. It is this scenario I’ve continually asked to be tested.

Articles such as this one’s driveability are helpful, but are not the end all to determining the overall performance.

I think the loss of range overnight was a problem of parasitic loads when the car was turned OFF which Tesla subsequently fixed. Not really a cold weather issue exactly.

I think the bigger problem for Broder was believing the hype about range and the range estimator. We saw several Leaf owners flatbed their cars for the same reasons.

Yeah, except it is only that in retrospect. At the time, he was only doing what a seriously misinformed receptionist at Tesla told him, eg: Speed up and slow down to get more regneration.

More regeneration but less efficiency.

Or that driving the car would bring back the charge in the battery, whereas Tesla’s own logging of the trip showed the only thing that would increase the charge of the battery would be to actually charge it.

Now as far as displays on the dashboard, I’m only familiar with my Roadster, which incidentally is quite accurate almost all the time. Some EV’ers call their displays “Guess-o-meters”, which do not apply to the roadster since you can actually make pretty good predictions about what is likely to happen as you drive down the road.

I’m going by the graphs supplied by Tesla for Broder’s trip alone.

“Not a cold weather issue.”

Huh? I calculated the loss using Tesla’s own charts of the trip to be 1840 watts the whole time he was parked at the motel. Therefore, if he had snuck an extension cord out the window, and gotten, say 1300 watts of charging at 110 volts, I had theorized he would HAVE still lost range even though charging the entire overnight.

Then a Minnesota women driving a new Model S proved the whole thing, turning a normally 13 hour trip into a 65 hour ordeal.


The woman is still a faithful Tesla Fan. BUt she proved that, in cold weather, you can lose a LOT of range and that 110 in a Tesla only forestalls the inevitable.

An interesting discussion happened on PlugInCars two years ago. Its just alot of us trying to figure out precisely what happened.


If you want to get into the weeds of what happened with the infamous “Broderization” of a Tesla Model S, here’s a long article containing an exhaustive analysis:


Bottom line: Yes, the Model S does lose significant range in very cold weather, and it doesn’t gain range very fast from a slow charge when left out in very cold weather, when the car has to constantly run the battery heater. But a lot of what Broder claimed simply wasn’t true, and he left out some “inconvenient facts” such as a side trip he took but didn’t report. Obviously that cut into his range, and it seems unlikely that he merely “forgot” that.

On the other hand, a lot of what Musk said in his angry, shoot-from-the-hip responses to Broder’s claims wasn’t true, either.

The reputations of both the NYT and Elon Musk got black eyes over this debacle.

If you are referring to Broder driving a large fraction of a mile driving around a large parking lot trying to look for a free space in the the dark, I know Musk was trying to demonize Broder for this, but I remember thinking at the time that whatever Broder was accused of doing, I myself had dont when trying to look for a free spot in a crowded parking lot, but just driving around looking in an unfamiliar area. Its too easy to criticize one’s driving style when you are very familiar with an area than when it is all brand new. I hate when people tell me “oh, you don’t need that much detail because you Can’t Miss It.”. Believe me, I can miss it. That is particularly disconcerting with PlugSHare. I took a 200 mile round trip to Erie, PA, and I was ‘somewhat unconcerned’ since, according to plugshare there were 2 separate Public Docking stations in Dunkirk, a city I was somewhat familiar with. I got there on the way back home searching for BOTH Stations and I could find ZERO evidence of Either, and these were pretty wide open public spaces. Looking behind buildings didn’t… Read more »

Actually, I was referring to Elon Musk’s claim that Broder took an unreported detour into Manhattan. But I see from the article I linked to, the one giving a detailed analysis, this was another wild exaggeration; the article claims the detour added at most two miles to the trip.

Mea culpa for repeating an unsubstantiated accusation.

Read your link, which seems to be very hard on Musk, and several Tesla, shall we say, ‘exaggerations’.

They still skirted over the primary cause of Broder needing to be towed, that of large energy consumption in cold weather only.

Even this Inside EV’s article is misleading. THe title says ‘Sub-Zero’ weather, when they mean ‘sub-zero-centigrade’ weather.

Around here, that is HOT, springtime weather. IF it was regularly 31 deg F, I’d be out riding my bicycle most of the time!

if solid state batterys ever become possible cold weather will have no effect on battery other then the heater

Interesting, I didn’t know that.

Are we sure about that?

Yes, because the chemistry in a lithium battery (the electrolyte) is wet. Liquids change physical states as they cool, increasing the internal resistance of the material, preventing electrons from flowing.

Get rid of the liquid in the battery, and the thermal performance issue disappears.

Per wikipedia: “Solid-state batteries . . . usually do not have any abrupt changes in performance with temperature, such as might be associated with electrolyte freezing or boiling.”

This implies that there are changes in performance with temperature, but they are gradual changes.


Thanks, sven.

Lower temperatures slow chemical reactions, period. Having a “solid state” battery avoiding liquid electrolyte won’t change that. I don’t know how much that will affect range, but it certainly will affect the amount of power available at lower temperatures, and that can’t help but affect range at least slightly.

However, hopefully a solid state battery wouldn’t see the -dramatic- loss of range at lower temperatures which is shown on the chart in the article.

You’re rebroadcasting one guy’s numbers? He didn’t control for number of trips, or average time in car. No data, at the link anyway. It’s nowhere near 40%, for one trip.

People should mostly be concerned about the single-charge range abilities of EVs. Yes, get in and out 3, or 4 times, let the battery completely cool to 10F each one, and the 85kwh goes to the lower 100’s, but is this the question we’re asking?

With pre-heat, it gets pretty close to 1:1 rated/actual, even when cold ~60mph.

Here’s Bjorn’s comment, which I agree with:
“I only get 10-20 % range drop in harsh Norwegian winter with snow and ice. Your result is probably based on short trips and little or no preheating. When I do my long trips, I preheat. For short trips, higher consumption is no big deal because you have more than enough range anyways. And for the long trips, the range drop is like I said, 10-20 %.”

Don’t worry, its awesome.

pjwood1, could you answer a couple of Model S cold-weather questions and give some estimates?

When it’s 10 degrees F and you don’t/can’t preheat how long does it take (time or miles) for the battery to heat up while driving to get back to 1:1 rated/actual performance?

In 10 degree F weather, how long does it take for a warmed up battery to “completely cool” to 10 degrees after you park the car?

Does the Tesla display the actual temperature of the battery? I don’t recall ever seeing a pic of the screen showing the battery temperature.

I’d surf teslamotorsclub.com, to get more input than 2, or 3, people. “When it’s 10 degrees F and you don’t/can’t preheat how long does it take (time or miles) for the battery to heat up while driving to get back to 1:1 rated/actual performance?” A couple outside unplugged overnights, at around 13F, started out with the first 20 actual miles consuming 40 rated miles, before getting a lot closer to 1:1. I’m otherwise in a garage that has been going to 28F. I don’t know the other answer to “how long to full cool”. I’d just say overnight takes it to ambient temp. Another newbie rule of thumb you’ll hear for the S85 is to not plan on more than 200 winter miles. That generally leaves folks with a ~20 mile buffer, from what I’ve read. I wouldn’t buy an S85, if all its charging were “opportunity”, or “destination”. What may negatively surprise some, is an inability in winter time, to get through 3 days of winter round trip commutes, where @ about 50-60 miles total, each day, you’d have to find a charger within that time. So, IOW it isn’t like a gas car’s “~tank a week”, but in… Read more »

Oops. I read your response a couple of days ago, but forgot to thank you for taking the time to respond. Thanks! 😀

This data is more comprehensive than Bjorn’s casual comment on range. 10-20 in what kind of temperature? Pretty sure the temperatures in Bergen/Osla are way different from that in Narvik/Kruna.

This again proves, PHEV is the king. In winter, use the gas engine freely to get free heat and remove all range anxieties. Don’t have to carry around giant battery packs for the rare occasions. Norway is foolish to punish the PHEVs.

See honey I told you I need a 200 mile ev to get to work even if it is a 24 mile round trip. 🙂

Tesla needs to embrace combustion heaters. The energy density of hydrocarbons is too great to be ignored. The Swedes don’t have the luxury of being ideologues.


The dramatic loss of range shown in the chart in the article above simply doesn’t match the real-world experience reported by most Tesla Model S owners. This appears to be reporting an “edge case”, rather than a typical or average case.

What pjwood1 says in the above comment is a much better match to what most Model S owners report.

There is a learning curve to proper use of a plug-in EV. That learning curve includes knowing to leave the car plugged into the charger overnight when it’s going to get bitterly cold, and it includes knowing to pre-heat the car for long trips when it’s cold enough to need to run the cabin heater.

Substantial loss of range due to cold weather shouldn’t be experienced except in temperatures near or below zero Fahrenheit… not the 40° F temperature which the article claims results in substantial range loss!

Assuming your EV has an all weather Thermal Management System… Not all of them do.

Sure but at the same time…how often does it get extremely cold? I would say a couple of days per year….at least where I live. (Mid-Sweden)

Maybe I just ignore somethink, but thinking about this I belive combustion heaters would be a great idea. The efficency of burning fuel is much worse than electricity for a motor, but it must be the same or better for heat a room, or a car.
An almost insignificant amount of paraffine, ethanol, or whatever, would entirely eliminate the problem, wouldn’t it? The car should alert when out of fuel, though.

If you follow the equation correctly, at the occasional -43°C here in Canada it would leave the S85 with about 60 miles of range. What has to be brought into the equation is that after about 10 years the battery will be about 70% capacity so the real world worst-case scenario range of the S85 is about 40 miles (60 km).
That is not a lot of range for what is relatively an expensive electric vehicle. That really has to mean that the affordable electric vehicles simply can’t handle the weather. I’m not talking about the current Nissan Leaf, but even the future generations of the vehicle with assuming 48 kWh battery will still probably only get 54 km on the highway at best on the coldest day assuming battery capacity loss with time.