The range loss or increased energy consumption leading to the reduced range in Tesla cars including Tesla Model S is a very common subject in Tesla forums and elsewhere. Depending where you are in the world, you are either not affected by the cold climate, slightly affected, moderately, or severely affected by cold temperatures. I want to share my strategies or tips such as using range mode and others that helped me to reduce range loss in Tesla Model S, Model 3, or Model X during winter cold weather and not rely on Tesla supercharger network.
Cold temperatures do also affect non electric ICE cars but the impact is different. The heat from burning gas in the engine chambers gets converted, filtered and channeled into the cabin. So by just firing up the gas car and waiting for a few minutes, the heat is being supplied for you to feel warm and cozy in the cabin while everything outside is frozen and icy. This means that if you just sit and wait in the car until the cabin is warm, you will be wasting gas. Normally, I would get in and start driving at once in the icy cold cabin and this would actually warm the cabin faster and not waste a gallon or a liter of that quite expensive and so cyclical petroleum.
Over the last few years, the petroleum prices have been ranging from $2.50 to $4 per gallon in the Philadelphia area. Some days, you feel that having a gas car is quite Ok. But, other days, you feel that you are wasting your money and nothing can help you. However, I really do not miss being at the gas pump during the freezing Philly mornings.
In the past few years, we have observed that climate has changed here in the Northeast of USA. I believe and feel that it is colder here now than before. There are a lot more days when temperatures fall and stay below 32 F or 0 degrees Celsius for weeks. There are days when temperatures are colder than in Alaska, below -10 degrees Celsius. There are days when temperatures are at -15 degrees Celsius which is similar to Norway.
Before I decided to purchase Tesla Model S, I read much about drivers in Norway enjoying this car and driving the rear wheel drive Model S in snowy winter roads. This gave me so much encouragement and confirmation of my choice that I was convinced. If winter temperatures in Philadelphia stay at around -10 Celsius, the Norway style winter, I would still be able to use Tesla Model S as a normal car and not feel any diminishing range pressures that everyone else is talking about. Come on, be like a real Nordic, take those winters and enjoy !
This all sounds great and wonderful but then reality settles in. When winter comes and temperatures drop below 40 F degrees, the little consumption yellow bar in the energy app stays above that white middle range bar during my whole drive back home which normally takes from 40 to 50 minutes one way. The energy consumption is up to and above 350 Wh/mi on the average and no more I can enjoy the 250 , 200, or even sometimes 190 Wh/mi low consumption numbers.
The following are my top strategies that I use everyday to safe range from being eaten or gobbled up by cold.
Park In Garage
If you have garage, park your Tesla in garage. This does keep the car from loosing heat fast and over cooling the batteries. Also, it prevents snow and ice collection which leads to long morning cleaning activities and again heating which consumes energy and battery.
I always preheat the car every morning especially when temperatures drop below 32 F or 0 degrees Celsius. The mobile app has an indicator showing when the battery is super cold and disappears when battery is warm enough. The indicator disappears even if the battery is not fully warmed up. After the morning warm up, I always notice that the energy app still displays some yellow dashed lines in the bottom half of the circle. This means that the battery still does not support full regenerative braking. I wish the mobile app would show the state of the battery more accurately.
So, always preheat before you leave the house and into the morning winter wonderland.
Preheat Battery in the Morning
My regular charging schedule is set to start at around 5 AM in the morning. This leaves enough time for the car to complete charging and be ready for my daily commute and minimizes the stationary energy loss. This schedule also helps to wake the car up from the deep frozen night sleep and warms the batteries after the subzero night time temperatures. So, I plug the car in the evening and do not start charging. I let the batteries loose the charge all night and then start the energy jolt early in the morning, like a morning glass of orange juice.
Avoid Driving in the Snow
This sounds funny especially since we are talking about Winter. But, I do avoid driving in the snow because this consumes a lot of energy. Often I have no choice, however 🙂 Same goes for driving in the puddles of water or climbing up the heels.
Avoid Cabin Heat to Maximize Range
Yes, do not use heat and just freeze in the car. It is more healthier to be in the cold than in the heat. You will stay younger longer and you will burn a lot of fat. I am kidding of course even though there is some truth in these statements. I normally save quite a bit of energy by not creating a furnace inside of the cabin. I do not like a hot cabin so I keep my temperature setting at around 65 to 66 F degrees and the cabin fan at 1 to 2 speed setting. I have noticed that this specific combination keeps energy consumption low, way below 400 Wh/mi. I normally end up consuming from 300 to 350 Wh/mi which keeps me close to the rated range of 300 Wh/mi. This is for my everyday commute to and back from work. I do occasionally use steering wheel heating especially in the beginning of the drive back from work but only for a short period of time to deice the wheel. I also do occasionally use the heated seats but this does not help to warm the cabin. My car does not have the leather sitting specifically because I do not like the cold leather feel.
Avoid Keeping Car Outside in Snow or Ice
It is a good idea to park your Tesla under some roof such as a garage especially if there is snow and ice in the forecast. Deicing snow and ice from Tesla takes time and a lot of energy. Too many times I found myself heating the cabin, front and back windows for minutes. This drained plenty of energy and caused lost range.
My Model S 75 does not have panoramic roof. One of the reasons I did not choose Tesla with the panoramic roof was because of the weather. In the cold winters, it helps heat to escape the cabin and in the summers, it lets in too much heat. I have a solid roof and do not find it any inconvenient or problematic. Yes, I do not have a great sky view but lets be serious how many times a day does any of us look up.
My average daily commute speed is only 25 to 30 mph due to constant traffic and it takes 1 hour. Some portions of the drive are super slow and in other portions, I am able to accelerate to 65 mph. It takes the car almost full 40 minutes to warm up the batteries to the full regenerative braking capacity.
All of the strategies above only help so much. I also do not use automatic climate control or Save Energy Mode.
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