How Long Can Teslas Sit In Traffic? (Cold vs. Warm Weather)

A Tesla’s battery always measures in terms of the miles you can drive before needing a charge. What about sitting in traffic, though?

It’s important to know how much sitting in traffic can drain the battery.

And, it matters depending on whether it is warm or cold outside.

How Long Teslas Can Idle in Traffic

A fully-charged Tesla is capable of idling for 12 hours or more while stuck in traffic. Even in freezing temperatures, a fully charged Tesla is capable of idling and keeping the cabin warm for at least 18 hours. It can also idle for 12-15 hours in freezing temperatures.

How Long Can a Fully Charged Tesla Sit in Traffic?

Teslas provide statistics like distance and how long a battery can last, but it doesn’t talk about idling.

But what about when you hit traffic? Idling means that the vehicle is running but you aren’t actually traveling any distance.

EVs can often idle in traffic for longer than gas-powered vehicles.

The reason is that other drivers will have to run their engines to stay warm. They’ll have to blow through gas reserves – and once their tanks are empty, they have nothing left.

Teslas are built without engines.

The motor depends on the battery – and the battery is smarter than many people realize.

It is capable of monitoring the power supply intuitively. It can offer peace of mind when idling in traffic that isn’t there when those driving gas-powered vehicles are in the same situation.

If you utilize “camp mode” when you’re in a significant amount of traffic and sitting with no end in sight for moving forward, you can make adjustments.

Camp mode helps when in a queue

Camp mode allows you to stay in one place comfortably for an extended period of time. It maintains the lighting and the temperatures so you can be comfortable. Plus, you can continue to play music.

When you’re in this mode, you could realistically idle in traffic for 40+ hours.

A fully charged Tesla has the potential to sit in traffic for many hours – and even days – when it’s simply idling. It all depends on how much power is being used to run the AC or the heat.

When there was a huge winter storm in Virginia in the winter of 2022, many cars were trapped on the highway overnight. Fact-checkers had to come forward to say that the traffic jam was caused by everyone leaving the highway once it reopened and NOT because electric cars died on the road.

Sitting in traffic vs. Idling

It’s important to understand that there’s a difference between sitting in traffic and idling.

If you’re sitting in traffic, there may be some forward movement. If you’re going slow but still creeping forward, it is going to take more out of the Tesla battery.

A Tesla can consume 50 kilowatts to propel the vehicle forward. When it’s idling, it consumes about 1 kilowatt. So, clearly, you can idle for a lot longer than you could spend on the road driving with a single charge.

Some of your basic driving habits will determine how well your battery stays preserved. Your battery won’t last as long if you:

  • Speed
  • Brake hard
  • Carry a lot of weight in your Tesla

The stop-and-go when you’re braking hard and have a lot of weight in your vehicle can lead to faster depletion of your battery range.

If you’re just sitting in traffic without any kind of forward momentum, you can sit in traffic with a fully charged Tesla for hours on end.

Some vehicles have been tested in various temperatures for up to 48 hours – and the battery still has a decent percentage when it’s all over.

In general, a Tesla model is capable of going at least 267 miles on a single charge. And a battery that is cared for properly can last up to 35 years.

Do Teslas Use More Power in Cold or Warm Weather

It’s important to look at whether Teslas use more power when it’s cold or warm outside. The reality is that a battery will lose capacity rapidly in cold weather. When it’s warm outside, the AC will usually be running, which helps to keep the battery at the ideal temperature.

It ensures that the range is where it needs to be – and the Tesla will go into battery-saver mode periodically, too.

The battery is used to power all of the electronics in your Tesla – power windows, the radio, and the heating and cooling systems. 

All of these require very little energy.

As such, you won’t see much power difference between cold and warm weather.

The only time that changes is when it gets REALLY cold, such as below-freezing temperatures.

Although a Tesla battery will lose some capacity in colder weather, it doesn’t have to be a significant amount. In fact, there are many ways that the Tesla is capable of dealing with the cold water – including the heat pump kicking in.

Drivers who know that they may get stuck in traffic when it’s cold outside can also do quite a bit to mitigate the risks of losing too much power.

Additionally, if it is extremely hot outside, it can lead to battery degradation.

Tesla batteries need to be cooled in hot weather.

Ideally, you will want to idle where you’re not in direct sunlight. If you are, you’ll need to keep the AC running so that you can keep the Tesla battery cooler, when at all possible.

How Much Power Do Teslas Use in a Queue?

There are a lot of factors that go into determining how much power is used in a queue.

Some of the areas to consider include:

  • Tesla model
  • Battery size
  • Temperature outside
  • Whether the vehicle is moving at all

Some people have reported seeing a drop of around 12 to 14% in the cold weather when they are stuck in a queue for 16 hours. The solution is usually to set the Tesla to “camp mode” so that it helps to hold onto as much power as possible.

Typically, an EV of any kind, including a Tesla, can see a drop of around 39% in its mileage when it’s 20 degrees (or colder outside).

However, when the vehicle is idling, it won’t use that much power. EVs are designed to use minimal energy when it’s not driving anywhere. As such, when it’s idling, you can expect to lose maybe 10% of the power.

Losing power is not a given, even when the heat is on. It depends on how long the vehicle has to idle and just how cold the temperature is outside.

Do Teslas Handle Queues Better Than Other Electric Cars?

EVs, in general, have the ability to handle queues in the cold and the heat. Particularly in the cold, many EV owners have said that they are grateful for having an EV because the battery can keep running.

A Tesla is able to handle the queues even better than the average EV for one simple reason. The batteries are larger.

Many people underestimate just how large a Tesla battery is. Particularly when you get into the “long-range” batteries found in some of the more recently released models, they are capable of handling queues regardless of what the weather is like outside.

Car & Driver put a long-range Model 3 to the test when it was 15 degrees outside.

It was able to maintain a 65-degree cabin temperature while sitting stationary for over 45 hours.

Note, you won’t benefit from Tesla’s self-charging braking system when in a queue.

What are the Best Ways to Preserve Battery in Traffic?

There are a number of ways to preserve a battery when you know that you’re going to be in traffic. If you’re traveling during the winter when a snowstorm could strike or you’re going to be on a road that is known for having traffic delays, you can prepare ahead of time.

How long a Tesla can go on a full charge varies.

Remove unnecessary cargo.

The more weight your vehicle has, the more battery it takes to move the vehicle forward. You should also remove any roof racks that will affect the aerodynamic drag.

Depending on the Tesla model that you have, go into energy savings or “camp mode” depending on whether you are moving forward at all. Your Tesla will automatically go into savings mode after you are sitting for a set period of time.

Avoid using any electronics that you don’t use, including power windows.

Set a reasonable temperature inside the cabin. You won’t know how long you’re going to be stuck in traffic. Especially if your battery percentage is low, don’t focus on keeping the cabin too cold in the summer or too warm in the winter.

If your heating/cooling system doesn’t have to run constantly, it will help you to preserve your battery.

Final Thoughts

It’s impossible to know when you are going to get stuck in traffic.

Those with gas-powered vehicles rarely drive around with a full tank of gas. Meanwhile, many who drive a Tesla will charge the battery overnight as well as while they are at work. This means that there’s a greater chance of a Tesla being better prepared for a queue than someone with a gas-powered vehicle.

Despite what you hear about EVs not handling traffic idling well, they actually fare better than gas-powered vehicles.

To ensure you’re capable of keeping your Tesla running for any extended idling that you may encounter, try to keep your battery as close to 100% as possible.


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