My wife and I have no regrets about purchasing a Tesla Model 3 a few years ago. We enjoy the way it looks and performs even more after doing some customizations.
However, this will be our first winter driving the electric car. Although the winter is mild in our area, we travel a lot. So, I wanted to understand how our Tesla will perform in cold weather before the temperature drops.
Gotta be ready to conquer the frosty challenges ahead and keep our Teslas running smoothly, right?
In this Tesla cold weather driving guide, I’ll share everything I learned while preparing our Model 3 for the winter. Tips on protecting your EV, handling snow and ice, maximizing range and energy efficiency, and much more.
For the essential Tesla winter accessories, check out this article.
Now, let’s get started with the guide.
Tesla Cold Weather Performance
During my research, I figured that colder climates can be challenging for many electric cars. Thanks to continuous innovations and implemented updates, our beloved Teslas are doing pretty well compared to the competitors.
In this section, we’ll explore the influence of battery efficiency, thermal management, and driving dynamics on our Teslas in the winter.
Without a doubt, winter months will impact your battery to some extent. For sustained performance in extreme cold, you must keep your EV’s battery within the optimal temperature range. It sounds like you’ve got some work to do. Not really, though.
Tesla’s advanced thermal management system regulates the temperature of the battery and other components, allowing for optimal performance in colder weather conditions.
So, Teslas can maintain their range even when the temperature drops. On top of that, the use of regenerative braking and a heat pump minimizes energy loss. Something that gives our cars an edge over other EVs.
As mentioned, Tesla’s thermal management system is your best friend in cold temperatures. But you can do a few more things to ensure everyone in the car feels comfortable.
For effective thermal management when temperatures are low:
- Remove all ice, snow, and other debris from the cabin air intake.
- Utilize seat heaters to keep warm instead of heating the entire cabin.
- Precondition the car by activating climate settings before departure.
I love the unique features like the Model X ice breakers allowing automatic doors to open even if they are frozen or the door handles of the Tesla Model S designed to extend from the vehicle and break through any ice accumulation.
It was nice to see that there is a trick for Model 3 and Model Y owners to help us unlatch the driver door without using the handle. You can access this feature in the Tesla app.
Teslas are well-balanced vehicles, especially if you own an all-wheel drive model, further enhancing the car’s winter performance. Here are some tips to help you feel even more confident:
- Buy winter tires and maintain proper tire pressure if it gets cold in your area.
- If there is no need for winter tires, get a set of snow socks or tire chains.
- Adjust your driving style for reduced traction in cold weather conditions.
Preparing Your Tesla for Cold Temperatures
Preparing your Tesla for winter involves more than just adjusting your driving habits; it also requires taking care of your vehicle to ensure it’s ready for the colder months. That includes cabin and battery preconditioning, tire pressure and traction adjustments, and protecting the car’s exterior.
I already mentioned some of those, but now I’ll dive deeper. I’ll tell you what steps I’ll take to ensure our Tesla Model 3 remains in peak condition, with optimal range and performance all winter.
Cabin and Battery Preconditioning
Preconditioning the cabin before driving will help prevent door handles, windows, mirrors, and wipers from freezing in place. To pre-heat the cabin, you can activate preconditioning or defrosting using the Tesla app. I think it’s better to precondition the cabin while connected to an external power source rather than using energy from your battery.
According to my Tesla manual, the battery preconditioning can take up to 45, depending on the outside temperature. We can make this process more convenient by utilizing the Scheduled Departure feature. You can choose when you want to start charging your Tesla and prepare it for your planned departure by preconditioning the battery.
I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ll certainly do it on our first ski trip.
Tire Pressure and Traction
Drastic changes in temperatures will lower your tire pressure. That’s why I said checking and maintaining proper tire pressure is important. If the (TPMS) indicator light turns on when you start the car, you should inflate the tires.
When it comes to traction, it’s up to you to decide whether you need winter tires, tire chains, or snow socks. In our case, the temperature never goes too low, and I never bought winter tires for our Model 3. However, we’ll be traveling a lot this winter, so I threw a set of snow socks in the trunk.
Either way, stock up before the winter so the snow won’t surprise you.
Protecting Your Car’s Exterior
Regarding the protection, I “invested” in PPF, hood water barrier, flexible mud flaps, and a cool windshield cover that also protects the side mirrors. I talk about these in my winter accessories round-up.
I’m very happy with the $30 universal Tesla windshield cover for snow I got. Here is how to prevent snow and ice accumulation on wipers and mirrors, in case you don’t like to buy accessories:
- Place the wipers in a service position.
- Deactivate the auto-fold feature for the mirrors.
Maximizing Range and Energy Efficiency
Honestly, I thought driving my Tesla in the winter would mean using more energy and sacrificing range. It turns out that by making a few adjustments, our electric cars can be as efficient even in the coldest conditions.
Let’s see how to get maximum range and efficiency through regenerative braking adjustments, charge and supercharge optimization, and energy consumption reduction.
Regenerative Braking Adjustments
As you probably know, regenerative braking utilizes the electric vehicle’s motion to capture energy and store it in the battery. However, due to the battery’s temperature, regenerative braking may be limited in cold weather.
What I normally do is gradually release the accelerator pedal when slowing down. To adjust regenerative braking for very low temperatures, turn on the cabin heat for 30-60 minutes using the Tesla app, which will warm up the battery.
Optimizing Charging and Supercharging
Utilizing Tesla’s Trip Planner and Supercharger network offers a couple of benefits:
- It makes long-distance travel a breeze.
- It optimizes charging during cold weather.
Don’t freak out if you notice the thermal system producing steam while charging at a Supercharger. I probably would if I didn’t read on forums that it’s a standard occurrence.
So, take full advantage of the navigation when Supercharging and use Tesla’s enhanced Trip Planner to ensure a smooth charging experience during the colder months.
Reducing Energy Consumption
One reason for being a Tesla owner is that we care about the environment, right? But reducing energy consumption will also help you keep your range in check during the winter. As stated in the Tesla owner’s manual:
You can maximize your range using the same driving habits you use to conserve fuel in a gasoline-powered vehicle.
In our case, maintaining a consistent speed, avoiding rapid acceleration and deceleration, and utilizing cruise control can lead to an approximate 10% reduction in energy consumption.
Using only seat warmers is another effective way to save energy during winter driving. That applies specifically to commuting.
Handling Snow and Ice
Before driving on snowy and icy roads, you need to understand your Tesla’s unique features and capabilities. Let’s look at some tips on how to handle challenging conditions safely.
Snowflake Icon Awareness
The snowflake icon on your Tesla’s touchscreen is an important warning signal that indicates a portion of the battery’s stored energy is inaccessible due to low temperatures. When the snowflake icon is displayed, it signifies limited regenerative braking, acceleration, and charging.
Moderate speed and refrain from charging the battery until it has warmed up. Once the battery has warmed up, the snowflake icon will no longer be present.
Cameras and Sensors
Tesla vehicles are generally heavier, which gives us good traction in snowy conditions. You still need to stay cautious of potential hazards on the road.
Take advantage of the comfort and convenience features provided by Tesla. Clean your autopilot sensors and cameras of snow, ice, mud, and dirt.
Using Tesla’s Defrost Feature
I think a windshield cover is your best bet for the winter, but the Defrost feature in the Tesla app is also pretty good. Being able to remotely get rid of the snow and ice from windows and mirrors before getting into the car is very convenient. It’ll take some time, but it:
- Ensures a clear view while driving
- Helps maintain the vehicle’s performance
- Removes snow and ice from important surfaces
Okay, we’ve explored the various aspects of driving your Tesla in cold weather. I hope my tips on preparing your vehicle for the winter and maintaining optimal thermal performance were helpful.
Spend some time playing with the Tesla app to fully understand how all features work, prep your car in advance, and charge your vehicle’s battery every time you get a chance to prevent normal range loss.
Do that, and you’ll enjoy your electric car while being safe on the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
How cold is too cold for Tesla?
Temperatures below 70°F can reduce a Tesla’s driving range by up to 41%, making it too cold for optimal performance. Although there is no official lower limit, be aware of the risks associated with dropping temperatures.
Does Tesla lose battery parked in the cold?
Yes, Tesla car batteries drain more in cold weather due to how batteries function. It’s an issue all car manufacturers must face, and something drivers should keep in mind.
Is cold weather bad for Teslas?
Cold weather certainly reduces the range of electric cars, including Teslas, due to increased cabin and battery heating energy consumption. Seat heaters should be used instead of the cabin heater, which uses less energy and reduces the impact of cold weather on Teslas.
What is the purpose of Tesla’s thermal management system?
Tesla’s thermal management system provides efficient cabin heating and optimal battery temperature regulation in cold weather, ensuring an optimum driving range.
How can I prepare my Tesla for winter driving?
To prepare your Tesla for the winter, you should do the following:
- Buy essential accessories
- Protect the exterior with PPF
- Adjust your tire pressure
- Precondition the cabin
- Keep your battery warm