Winter Driving In A Tesla Model S

JAN 23 2016 BY MARK KANE 28

One of the newest Tesla customer stories is on winter driving in a Tesla Model S.

The overall experience is so enjoyable that after reading the full story on Tesla’s official blog, we think everyone out there would love to do winter road trip in a Tesla.

Here is the basic jist of the story:

The owner drives a 85D version, which has two motors for AWD and air suspension. The decision behind choosing the 85 kWh, AWD equipped with air suspension was dictated by ability to drive in the mountains for skiing.

The latest 187 km / 116 miles (one-way) trip to Lake Louise required “a bit of planning” – charging to full, pre-warming the car and driving in range mode plus a 10-minute stop for recharge at a Supercharger to add about 70 km /44 miles to feel safe on the range.

And here comes the advantages of the dream Tesla winter road trip:

  • electric car is quiet so passengers can carry on a normal conversation
  • the driver does not tire as much as driving conventional car (our general observation for EVs)
  • great AWD traction on icy roads in mountains
  • capability to remotely turn on warming up Model S on Tesla App and arrive to a heated seat after skiing
  • driving back home from skiing you uses less energy because ride downhill and to some degree regenerative braking

Bonus: Tesla Model X in the snow (for no particular reason other than, hey, it’s a Model X in the snow)

Source: Tesla Motors

Categories: Tesla

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28 Comments on "Winter Driving In A Tesla Model S"

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Sounds far more enjoyable than the one (and only!) time Cote and I took my Leaf to go skiing. We basically had to freeze ourselves while poor Cote was trying to keep the windshield clear with a 12V defroster. We were pushing the car beyond what it’s made for (~65 miles round trip with temperatures in the teens) and no place to charge along the way. I can’t wait to try this trip again in something like a Bolt. It will certainly be much more comfortable!

OK, so it probably means that unless you carry along a big (& expensive) battery such as in the Tesla proper defrosting and heating can the problematic for BEV’s in cold climates. I have in my boat a very compact paraffin heater (wallas). Same technology as what is used in trucks. IMHO this equipment should be offered as an option in BEV’s such as the leaf for cold climate driving, this would improve the range & (mostly) comfort in such conditions.

Defrosting/heating in cold climates is only a problem if you are pushing the range of your car. Otherwise it doesn’t matter a whit (in my opinion). When I drive to my local ski hill, I run the heater at whatever temperature I feel comfortable in.

As to the paraffin heater – is this like burning a paraffin wax candle? If so, no way should anyone be using these devices, since burning paraffin releases all sorts of known carcinogens… and into an enclosed vehicle, I don’t think that’s a good idea!

They use diesel heaters in Norway in electric battery cars. Should I say “clean diesel” now as such car is supposed be “green”? 😉

And people can’t figure out why Toyota or Honda pushes fuel cell cars.. Planning for 116 miles trip with $100k car? Can’t leave car outside in cold as it must to create some vampire load? Sure, it sounds great.

Taxi Leafs in colder climates frequently have fossil fuel heaters installed.

Back in the day, some VW dealers installed gasoline-fueled heaters in the Classic Beetle, because its cabin heater was wholly inadequate for bitter cold.

Paraffin heaters (also called kerosene heaters) do carry a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning if the heaters are not maintained; if they are not cleaned out according to a regular maintenance schedule. With companies these days being so much more sensitive to liability issues, I guess it’s no surprise that we don’t see these things being used much.

I note that a Treehugger article claims paraffin/kerosene heaters produce some toxic gases even when working properly, but I don’t know if this hazard is sufficiently great that average person should worry about it:

Indeed, it can burn whatever deemed appropriate (paraffin, diesel, gas, vodka, gaz etc…) unless of course we step up with energy density (more than 200 wh/kg & less than 150$/kwh) then we could have 23°C+ inside our EV’s without worrying about range issues on long trips. It’s all a question of getting BEV’s mainstream, not about convincing us here on this site which is meaningless as we are more than enough convinced for our own good.

There is a liability issue if the vehicle can’t even muster enough heat to clear frost/ice from the windshield. This is why you won’t see the Volt using a heat pump and why the 1st Gen version ran the ICE at temps below 26 F. They were a bit conservative IMO in how this was designed, but a large company can’t afford to be sued by somebody because lack of defrost capability caused an accident. OEMs are looking for integrated solutions, not add-on things like paraffin heaters.

Brian, Hi!

Did you see any link here? The only thing I saw was 17 secs of ‘X’.

Other than that – nothing.

65 miles in the teens must have been a bit dicey in a Leaf. How many miles did you have left coming back home? I assume the main heater was off the whole way.

Hi Bill.

There is a link to the Tesla blog, but I didn’t see a long video no.

The 65 mile ski trip was quite the adventure. One that I won’t be repeating in this particular car. The main heat was off. I don’t remember what the guess-o-meter claimed for remaining range, but I remember having about 5 bars (out of 12) when I left the ski hill. I was concerned at the time, but now I know that 5 bars is actually roughly 50%, as my Leaf keeps a “reserve” of about 2 extra bar. So in a sense, I had 7 bars out of 14. Plus, the trip to the hill included 1000′ of elevation gain. So the return trip descending from the hills was more efficient.

I definitely would not have made it if I had turned on my inefficient heater. But I’m sure a Bolt would make it with no sweat at all, keeping me toasty warm the whole time. The progress that has been made in the past 6 years (Leaf released 2010, Bolt released 2016) is remarkable.

So is your Leaf now 3 1/2 years old? What % of 100 do you have left in your battery by your estimation?

I picked her up March 2012, so going on 4 years. I lost the first capacity bar in October, which nominally represents 15%. I figure I’m at about 83-84% now. I don’t push the range much these days. I just drive the car for what it’s good for and take the wife’s car if there is any concern about range or heat for the kids.

I dont get it? How can 187km recuire planning, full charge, preheat, range mode snd charging? Do you mean the round trip? Was there no posibility charging at the destination?

It really did not require planning at all, charge to 90% and stop at the SC for 5-10 on the way to and from to stretch the legs and it would have been perfectly fine for this trip.

From the story on Tesla’s site: “As it turned out, I didn’t really need the short charge stop on the way up in the morning. I would have made it back to the Canmore Supercharger with at least 60 K of range left.”

Calgary to Lake Louise is 185 km (115 miles), and it is up 1,000 m; down 500 m, for a net gain (going there) of 500 m (1,650 ft). That seems like pushing it at highway speeds in the winter, considering it is close to the EPA rated range.

There is also little destination charging at Lake Louise, and none at the ski hill that I am aware of. However, the Supercharger in Canmore is kind of in the middle, so any model of Tesla should never have a problem, provided they don’t mind stopping for a quick top-up.

Early Teslas could lose up to 10% of their range when parked overnight in the bitter cold. Likely this was due to battery heating. Is this still the case? I assume not–thus the “prewarming.”

What is the range penalty for winter driving? I assume the EPA ratings are measured in more temperate conditions.

I haven’t tested this in my Leaf, but I read somewhere that an EV generally will lose 1% of range for every 7 degrees below 70 degrees F. So at 35 F you lose 5% range, at 0 F 10% range. That is just the range lost due to outside temperature, you lose more by running the heat. In my experience, 10 – 15%.

When my car(LeafMY2012) sit outside at -20c° for the night I can put 2 kWh less energy in the pack that I would at over 0c°.
So 14% less energy to start with, but the battery need some heat to work properly and it won’t regeneration until you have 3-4 bars on the temperature meter and you lose another 10-15% there without the regeneration gain+ you need heat at least to defrost your windshield, and the cold air is much dense and hard to push and you lose more there, you add your winter tire losses and if there’s some snow on the road some more goes there.
Notice I haven’t put any cabin heat on yet and this is the most energy consuming of everything.
Beside, the Leaf 2012 and older heat 6.9 liter of liquid before providing any limp heat and this is just a bad conception.
All an all you can lose up to 65% of your range in severe cold.
Ski station with destination charger are very welcome.

Tesla should always be plugged in when parked outside in sub zero temperatures. Extreme freezing may damage the battery and also the car itself does not like it.

Not sure about the details, but my assumption is that Tesla will try to keep the temperature of battery at near zero. And when charge level drops too much, it allows battery temperature to fall more, to preven deep discharge that is potentially more hazardous for the battery than freezing.

Users have reported that when Tesla is parket and plugged in at sub zero tempretures, the cabin temperature is considerably above ambient temperature. This indicates, that Tesla is warming battery when plugged in. And this feature cannot be disabled.

EV range loss in deep cold weather is a complex subject. From what I’ve read, range loss for a BEV — not just Tesla cars — is typically 10-30%. There are reports of 40% loss or even more, altho I suspect these extreme cases are a result of a driver who doesn’t know how to use the proper settings on the car, or when the car is left out overnight in bitter cold without being plugged in.

There are a lot of factors. Obviously the ambient temperature is one. As has been said, keeping the car plugged in overnight makes a big difference in range, because that lets the battery heater run off current from the wall instead of using stored battery power. Other factors are whether the cabin heater is used or not; in the Model S, you can stretch out range by just using the heated seats and steering wheel.

For those who want a deep dive into the various factors affecting Model S range in deep cold, here is a long article with lots of data and details on the subject:

What is the reader supposed to get out of this, other than an ad for an “S”?

I saw no information on the experience.

A few of the earlier trips were more adventures than the owner intended, as I’ve listed here previously.

Just for the record, the GM Voltec Platform products suffer ZERO Vampire range loss when exposed to sub zero temps even for weeks at a time. The Traction battery self isolates and incures no baseliine draw. If the duration and frigid temps are sustained as in sub 14 degrees for a long time and you start the vehicle, there will be a delay, then a generator start until the High Voltage battery can warm itself for normal usability. Other wise there is no vampire range loss in the Chevy Volt, Opel/Vauxhall Ampera, Holden Volt or Cadillac ELR. What Your GM or Used Car Salesman Never Told You: MY 2011/2012 Chevy Volt at 25 degrees or less a Generator start will occure. This is known as Cabin Assisted Heating or ERDDT (Engine Running Due To Temperature) The 55,000 wHt runs and consumes .03 to.07 100th of a gallon of gas, enough to provide excessive waste heat into the cabin, fast, to knock ice off the windshield and provide warm comfort. MY11/12,in 25 degrees or less temps, run the heating system in comfort mode with fan low. Cunterintuitive but this will lesson repeated ERDTT while in Charge Depetion Mode unless the Volt… Read more »

Statik, can’t someone come up with an app that can check spelling for the likes of me; always racing out the door?
Hmm, maybe it could be called something like spell check!

Thomas J. Thias

This “spell check” idea sounds interesting. I myself have never considered the need for such an application as I have never made a spelling or grammatical error of any kind.

The Volt can encounter a no-start condition if it is exposed to extreme cold while not plugged in. Google “BATTERY TOO COLD, PLUG IN TO WARM”. Other car makers have designed battery heaters into their packs to draw power (300W is sufficient), whether plugged in or not, if the temperature drops below a certain point. The thought is that this “vampire draw” is acceptable if it can prevent a no-start condition, because a fully charged battery is no use if its electrolyte is frozen.

I think it happens at below -22 F only when it stays in cold long enough to freeze battery coolant. Frankly I doubt many gas cars would start at such temperature without issues. Especially older ones without synthetic 0W* oil and not perfect start batteries. Even worse for diesel fuel.

Thomas, where can I get this Chip installed for my 2011 VOLT, and how much is it installed?

My ELR is on the one hand, much worse since it runs the engine at anything less than 33 degrees fahrenheit, but on the plus side, when the engine is running it is *NOT* driving the car, nor running the heater fan, it is *ONLY* providing a water heater function.

So, Ironically at 20 deg F in the ELR, I find myself driving and the windshield totally fogging up to the point where I almost have an accident, since ‘recirculate off’ cools the heater (and thereby jacket water), and restarts the engine too soon. Curiously, you can set the temperature below 60 degrees and it will still steal heat from the water.

So this ‘FEATURE’ that the Big Experts inserted in both cars to make defrosting easier, is actually causing me more of a safety hazard. But in doing so I drove yesterday 60 miles on Electricity in the ELR, and got an effective 120 miles per gallon for the day, since the engine rarely ran. The regulated radiator temp was 120-145 degrees fahrenheit.

It seems ironic that BEVs in cold weather would benefit from the one usage case that combustion is ideal for: excess heat.

When it comes to generating heat, few solutions are more efficient than fire. It’s not very energy efficient for a BEV to use many kW warming a car electrically, when a comparatively tiny amount of liquid fuel would accomplish the same task more quickly and easily.

I think an ideal world would have BEVs with a small CNG “furnace” (or something similar) used during the winter months.