Watch A Tesla Model X Survive Extreme Testing At -36°C/-33°F



Bjørn Nyland went to the very extreme in winter testing the Tesla Model X at temperatures as low as -36°C/-33°F or even -38°C.

How cold is too cold for a car to operate?

Related – Watch 2018 Nissan LEAF Driven In Canada At -7°C

(source: Bjørn Nyland)

Its big battery enables having the heat on the entire night and allows Bjorn to simply camp in the desert of snow and ice, although it was smart of him to insulate the windows.

When the car starts in the morning there were no troubles besides regen being off, power limited and tires (or possibly some other component) affected by the extreme cold and bumping, and some warning messages (nobody listens to those) which disappeared when temps hit a more reasonable -22°C.

It’s good to see that the Tesla Model X is ready for really cold weather, but you’ve got to be brave to stay outside at those temperatures relying only on a car. We wouldn’t risk it.

See Also: Jaguar I-PACE Winter Test Video

Yesterday it was extremely cold in Folldal, Norway. I went there to sleep in my car. In the morning the temperature was as low as -38°C/-36°C. The car started but it had some issues…

Range at 00:15: 316 km
Range at 06:00: 241 km
Average range consumed per hour: 13 km
Average heater power: 13 km * 210 Wh/km = 2.7 kW
Outside temperature when camping: -36°C/-33°F
Temperature inside the car: 18°C/64°F
Range mode on during camping

Model X extreme testing in -36°C/-33°F (source: Bjørn Nyland)

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18 responses to "Watch A Tesla Model X Survive Extreme Testing At -36°C/-33°F"
  1. TheWay says:

    Well this will answer those trolls who ask what happens if an EV is stuck in traffic for hours, a loss of only 8 miles per hour.

    In comparison, according to Argonne National Laboratory, a large sedan burns 0.40 gallons per hour (and this is without running the heater, just idling). An average car is 25mpg, so a loss of 10 miles per hour. With heater and an SUV, that number would be even larger!

    1. Viking79 says:

      Or in a compact or diesel (waste less fuel at idle) it would be much less, about 0.16 gallons per hour. That is about 20,000 BTU, pretend half that goes out the exhaust pipe and the other half is usable.

      10,000 BTU equates pretty closely to a 3 kw electric heater for power. My Volt uses up to 7 kw or more for heat (on full blast), that could drain even a Tesla sized battery overnight.

      Heater use with EVs will always be an issue since they don’t generate much waste heat, but getting stuck in traffic is only an issue in the winter for EV.

      1. David Gould says:

        > in a compact or diesel (waste less fuel at idle) it would be much less, about 0.16 gallons per hour

        Source? And is this 0.16 gph for diesel only, or “compact” gas also? Why should the size of the car should make such a large difference to idle consumption.

        > pretend half that goes out the exhaust pipe and the other half is usable.

        Usable for what? By what reasoning besides “pretend”?

        1. Viking79 says:

          Sure, source for idling fuel usage.

          Typical figures are 1/3 mechanical, 1/3 exhaust, 1/3 cooling system, since idle is producing no useful work, half and half seems reasonable.

          I do like my EV as idling is far more efficient than ICE, except in extreme cold.

          1. Djoni says:

            Except that a diesel idling don’t produce enough heat to warm the cabin.Some diesel can’t idle in such temperature and stall.
            I use to drive long ago a VW Rabbit and just idling in traffic was chilling the cabin very uncomfortably.
            On the highway it was a sauna if you’d want to.

            1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

              Light car diesels often have auxiliary electric heater for such situations like idling, or cooler temperature not high enough, or people wanting extra heat.

              Hybrids like Prius don’t need to idle all the time for how many years now? You can “prove” anything if you pick some stone age technology for comparison.

              1. Leaf2012 says:

                The point is that the idling diesel engine will not provide heat for the cabin at those temperatures. All heat necessary for cabin temperature will come from the additional diesel burning heater which is installed in the cooling liquid loop. And part of the heat will be lost at heat loss from engine block, piping and radiator.

                Burning 6 kW of diesel in this burner would at 80% efficiency provide 4,8 kW heat, and I would guess about half of this would go to keep engine temperature up so you would get 2,4 kW heat to the cabin. This fuel would then be in addition to the fuel the engine consumes at idle.

                If you don’t have this auxiliary heater another trick would be to idle at 2000-3000 rpm which burns more fuel and gives more heat output.

          2. Terawatt says:

            Where did you get the “typical” figures? They don’t make any sense for several reasons.

            First, ICE is only 25% efficient. That means a quarter of the energy is turned into useful work, not a third.

            Second, the remaining 3/4 are heat losses, with nearly all of that being exhaust. (Yes there are losses in the transmission – friction creates heat, it’s still heat losses.)

            Third, I believe the Tesla has a heat pump and a purely resistive element. At any rate an EV can easily be so equipped. I don’t believe the waste heat from an ICE can drive a heat pump and achieve an overall COP above 1 (so one might as well use the waste heat directly). When temperatures are as low as this, -38°C, a heat pump won’t be much use, but in less extreme conditions, certainly well below freezing, the pump will move at least twice the energy it consumes. And that of course would make a big difference to the calculations.

      2. Paul Smith says:

        The Tesla seems to use less power to heat, as Bjorn left the heat on all night. In a diesel you would have to leave it running all night to get cabin heat, and if you didn’t, and survived, would it start at -38?

        1. John Doe says:

          -38 can give problems for sure. Use a 0W oil, winter diesel, and a good battery – it should work.
          With normal diesel, it may turn to a wax like substance in the fuel line or fuel filter.
          In the military we used a blowtorch to heat it up until it was a Liquid again, so it would start.

          1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

            I remember some decades ago BMW had electric heated diesel fuel filters. Volvo semis had heated fuel lines as well, no need for torch 😉

          2. Adam says:

            If you don’t put an additive in the fuel at that temperature the Diesel fuel will gel if left overnight running or not.

      3. TheWay says:

        A compact would waste less fuel at idle, but you are also dealing with a smaller car which aren’t equals.

        Second of all, you don’t always need to run the heater at full blast. You only do so initially to heat up the cabin, once the cabin is heated up, maintaining temperature requires less power, this is even more so when standing still in traffic vs moving down the highway at high speed as the wind will steal some of the energy.

        And third of all, doesn’t the volt have a less efficient heater than other electric cars? At least I remember that was the case with the old model, not sure about the volt gen 2.

        Lastly, being stuck in traffic in winter is an issue for ICE cars more so than EVs. ICE cars have the advantage of the extra heat coming out, but that is only if the engine is operating and high outputs. At lower outputs, it needs to burn more fuel on top of idling and the equation gets worse for ICE cars as the engine operating temperature burns more fuel than an EV maintaining temperature. This is why during some snow storms a lot of ICE cars ran out of fuel as they idled. And many trolls think that it would be worse for EVs, but as the data shows, that is quite the opposite. ICE cars do worse in traffic during the cold than EVS. Because simply the idle load uses up more fuel, let alone running the heater.

        1. John Doe says:

          There are about 2-4 proper EVs, that could do what he did. Other EVs like Nissan E-NV200 is just useless in winter. At -4 it can drive about 100km. If I had been stuck for 10 -15 minutes I would have to be towed home. This was in an area With some traffic, and very seldom severe winter weather. So no big deal. The new battery will probably solve this.

          But it made me think about other EVs with short range, like the tiny egg from Mitsubishi/Citroën/Peugeot.. that would not work either. . and many more.

          I have been stuck up in the Mountains in serious weather once, and an 8 hour trip ended up taking more then 20 hours.
          10 of those was more or less sleeing in the car, as the road closed up, and traffic stopped. Wind and snow started to build up, and I was afraid the car would be totally covered in snow, and was also afraid the engine would stop, without air, and was worried that one of the massive snow plows would crash into us.

          It covered one side of the car all the way, but the other was fairly free from snow. The diesel tank was full, and the 1,3 liter engine was running all the time.

          Like most diesel engines sold in Scandinavia, it was fitted with a diesel heater as well (Webasto/Eberspächer). It is common since a diesel engine run so lean, and can not generate enough heat to keep the engine and cabin warm in Winter.

          I was warm and comfy all the time, but it was the last time I was crossing the mountains without a sleeping bag, extra food, extra fuel, a showel, a strobe light and so on.

          My current passenger van has an extra diesel water heater (heats the cooling water, and it can run the fans in the car, even when the engine is not running), and an extra diesel cabin heater as well. And an electric block heater, 2 electric heaters inside the car and a battery charger, to heat the batteries.
          Normally the car is heated electrically, and if the cooling water gets too cold, the diesel water heater kicks in. The extra diesel internal air heater is just for extra warmth, and if kids drag to much snow and wet gear inside the van – to be able to dry it out.
          I can use all if I want to, to make sure the car is super warm in a very short time.
          There is a timer/computer for these diesel heaters.

          The diesel heaters gives 10 000 watts of power. Depending on the car, they may be programmed to run without the engine running. The Electric heaters are max 4 000 watts (min 2 000), and I don’t know how much the block heater can offer.

          I know some people with EVs add a diesel heater to keep range OK during winter. Until all have OK range, this will be a solution for people in colder areas.

  2. S'toon says:

    They warn us every winter if we’re stuck, NOT to leave the car running to keep the car warm. Carbon monoxide. They recommend we keep candles, and blankets to survive the deep cold.

    No problem with EVs, as Bjorn shows us.

  3. Eco says:

    Thanks Bjorn, great cold weather test results, I’m now much more confident that my Model 3 will withstand an Alberta winter (temperature sometimes gets down to -40°C = -40°F).

    Regarding ‘square’ tires when it’s cold, I’ve experienced that many times, inflating the tires to a higher pressure will minimize the effect.

  4. ModernMarvelFan says:

    2.7kW is about 2 air dryer near max setting.

    That would be my guess on how much it would take to keep the car warm inside all night.

    64 deg isn’t bad. That is slightly colder than my house at night. We set ours to 67 deg at night for sleeping. But we aren’t not camping.

    2.7kW x 8 hours is about 21.6kWh. That is probably acceptable for a 100kWh battery.

    This just shows that added complexity in Heat Pump isn’t needed when you have an ultra large battery pack onboard.

    Now, the question is that if you are camping 100 miles away without charging station, then it could get hairy in getting back and use the heat overnight. But -36deg C is pretty extreme though.

  5. Oleks says:

    There is already a video on youtube of the 2018 Leaf test in -31C:

    It is in Russian but self-explanatory even without the sound.

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