One of the biggest concerns surrounding electric vehicles is their cold weather performance – the last thing anyone wants during the cold weather months is to worry about their car’s ability to hold up.
If you have a Tesla or are considering one, you may want to ensure that you won’t have any problems driving your Tesla in the winter.
Read below for our research and answers to your questions.
How is the Performance of a Tesla in Freezing Temperatures?
There are a few elements of your Tesla whose performance may suffer while driving in freezing weather. These include reduced battery range, handles and charging ports freezing shut, and issues with regenerative braking. However, Teslas have no issues starting and driving in cold weather.
However, Tesla has taken steps to mitigate these effects, and driving a Tesla in the winter is in many ways comparable or better to a standard vehicle or other EV.
Do Teslas Lose Range in Colder Climates?
Due to the nature of EV mechanics, Teslas do typically suffer a range reduction in colder climates. This is much like other electric cars.
There are two main reasons for this:
#1 Electrochemical processes slow down
Cold temperatures can inhibit chemical processes from occurring, creating additional resistance for the battery to overcome.
#2 EVs produce far less heat
In standard gas-powered cars, extra heat is a normal byproduct of the internal combustion engine. This extra heat can easily be diverted to warm the car during winter. Since Teslas are actually more efficient and produce less excess heat when running, they need to devote power to generating heat when it’s cold.
How much range will my Tesla lose in the cold?
Exactly how much of a reduction in range you experience will depend on a few factors, such as driving speed and cold-weather practices.
Driving a Tesla in cold weather can be very manageable and safe, but does require a few adjustments.
Preheating and defrosting your Tesla will go a long way to increasing the efficiency of your battery while driving and help to preserve your range.
We have a full guide here on how to defrost your Tesla.
In addition, avoid accelerating when possible and maintain a steady speed – turning on Chill Mode can help with this.
You can also try using your seat warmers rather than heating the car to conserve energy.
Teslas have been shown to operate at anywhere from 80% to 50% of their normal battery range in below-freezing temperatures, and the difference depends mainly on driving speeds.
It may take some time to get to know your vehicle and how its range adjusts to cold weather conditions, so plan for more frequent charging just to be safe.
Do Teslas Take Longer to Charge in Cold Weather?
Teslas frequently take longer to charge when the temperature is below freezing, for a few reasons. Since charging creates heat in the battery, it needs to be protected from changing temperatures too quickly.
The vehicle will automatically reduce the charge rate to prevent this.
This is especially true at Tesla’s Supercharger stations, which normally charge the battery much faster than your typical outlet.
However, there are a few things you can do to improve your charging time.
About an hour to 30 minutes before charging, you can turn on the preconditioning features of your vehicle to warm the battery in preparation for charging
Charge right after you drive:
The battery is already warmed up from the energy it uses while driving. If you can charge your Tesla right after a ride, it will immediately start charging at its normal rate.
Plug it in:
Leaving your vehicle plugged in as much as possible while it’s parked will allow it to use heat from the charging station to stay warm, rather than from the battery.
Navigate to stay warm:
If you set a Supercharger station as your destination in your Tesla’s navigation system, it will automatically precondition your car before arrival.
Do Teslas Experience Problems Starting on Cold Days?
Teslas very rarely experience problems starting due to cold weather. However, while it’s definitely possible to drive your car in extremely cold weather, it’s often not recommended because it can have negative effects on the efficiency of your battery.
The better option – and the one that will keep you the warmest – is to preheat your car before driving. You can do this by scheduling your next departure time in the Tesla app or through the vehicle’s touchscreen, and it will automatically start to warm up in time for you to drive.
To navigate to the feature, touch:
- ‘Charging’ >
- ‘Scheduled Departure’ >
- ‘Schedule’ >
- ‘Depart At’,
- and choose your time.
If you forgot to schedule your departure, you can also start preconditioning right away – about an hour before departure is best.
To maintain a frequent departure time, you can set a daily time to depart that your car will automatically repeat by going to the Climate Control settings.
What if my charging port or door handles are frozen?
A more frequent, though still unusual, problem in cold weather occurs when drivers find that their charging ports or door handles have been covered by a layer of ice and are blocked from opening.
While Tesla’s Defrost features can definitely help with this issue, it’s also safe to give your handles a couple of strong bumps with your fist to break the ice.
Do Teslas Handle Cold Weather Better than Other Electric Cars?
A decrease in range during times of cold weather is typical in EVs, and Tesla has actually been shown to perform better than many other cars in terms of range retention.
Teslas has some of the best cold-weather battery conservation.
Outperforming brands like:
- and Chevy.
Teslas have also been shown to have great efficiency in maintaining heat while idling and perform at a level comparable to ICEs. Car and Driver found that their 2019 Tesla Model 3 was able to idle for two days at 65 degrees before losing power. If you’re ever stranded for a time in your Tesla during freezing temperatures, you should have no problems staying warm.
How Well Do Teslas Handle Snow and Icy Roads?
Teslas perform quite well in snow and ice, depending on the extremity of the weather.
Because they are evenly balanced and have the option of all-wheel drive, you can count on strong handling even with icy roads and minimal snowfall.
Tesla also helps drivers out by melting the snow and ice on their windows with their Defrost feature, increasing visibility and making winter driving easier.
However, they are not heavy-duty vehicles, nor are they designed for off-road use. Snow tires can go a long way to improve traction, but Teslas do not have the high ground clearance or four-wheel drive traction control necessary to handle deep snow.
What happens to Tesla’s regenerative braking feature in cold weather?
One of the trickier issues that surface when driving a Tesla in cold weather is the regenerative braking system.
The regenerative braking feature in Teslas is designed to recuperate the energy lost in slowing down the vehicle by reversing the power instead of simply applying the brakes.
In freezing temperatures, however, the resistance that regenerative braking causes when slowing down can cause sudden skids on slick roads.
Tesla has thankfully introduced measures to compensate for this problem, automatically limiting regenerative braking in colder weather. In some models, you can also turn off regenerative braking manually through the touchscreen.