Encouraging frigid temperature results

Encouraging frigid temperature results

Yesterday, when it was 0F, I attempted to pre-warm the battery by starting a charge about 2 hours before departure. The garage was about 38 degrees and the 60% full battery was very slow to accept a charge, maxing out at 4 of a possible 12 MPH. Driving to work, it took a good while for my energy usage to drop below 500 Wh/m though it eventually dropped to about 480 Wh/m after 10 miles, with regen limitations the entire way

So I decided to try a trickle charge technique where I charged at 8 MPH for the 14 hours before my morning departure. I also preheated the cabin about 15 minutes ahead of time. Mind you today it was -15F. There were no limits (dotted-line) on power output or regen. After 5 miles of driving, my average use was 206 Wh/m. I had the seat heat on, but climate off. It was at this point I needed to use the front defroster because it was fogging up, though comfortable. Over the next 5 miles, my avg consumption rose to 270 Wh/m. Because this commute involves about a 400 ft loss in altitude, it's not unusual to make it in under 200 Wh/m. Other confounding factors included icy buildup on the road that raised rolling resistance which also lowered the average speed by between 5 and 15 MPH.

I never considered charging while at work because I don't need the miles added, but considering the great loss in efficiency from a cold/unconditioned battery, it might be a good idea.

robert | 05. Dezember 2013

I am experimenting with precisely the same, that is, charging at the office, and have indications of the same results. Much better to have a long but slow charge prior to departure than a quick, "brutal" one. I would have posted this, but I didn't feel that I have enough data as yet.

Bighorn | 05. Dezember 2013

Publish or perish:)

Captain_Zap | 05. Dezember 2013

That looks like some promising data. Thanks for sharing.

CarlE_P439 | 05. Dezember 2013

Good to know. Thanks.

Bighorn | 05. Dezember 2013

More info
Headed out to a concert tonight, -18F. Car had been in 37F garage, not charging. Regen was limited at 30 kW. This never showed any improvement over the course of a 25 mile roundtrip. Energy usage was 506 Wh/m. The tire pressure warning couldn't decide whether to stay on or off. Of note, I filled my tires to 46 PSI this week (ambient temp was in the 30s) and reset the TPMS for the 19" wheels. I measured the pressures tonight, which ranged between 41 and 42.5 PSI. Also the standard steering felt like sport, but more like standard when I changed it to comfort.

I also recognized a new breed of tailgater. In warmer weather, it's been boy racers generally. Now I'm seeing more jacked up pick-ups that seem challenged by the fact that the bad roads aren't slowing down the car much.

Since the battery didn't appear to be warmed much by driving, as evidenced by a constant regen limitation, I think that emphasizes how important the pre-conditioning charge will be. I wonder if a stop at a super charger will get the battery nice and toasty and running more efficiently. I guess many will get to add more to this collective knowledge as this weather heads east.

Brian H | 06. Dezember 2013

Air pressure at -18F is measurably lower than at 30F. The tires must start at 45 psi when cold. Adjust daily to suit.

Bighorn | 06. Dezember 2013

I'm aware of the 1 PSI per 10deg loss rule. Easier said than done when it's cold as balls.

Mathew98 | 06. Dezember 2013

@Bighorn - Thanks for the updates. My MS generally finish charging 15 - 30 minutes before I drive off in the morning and haven't seen any regen limitations in the morning. But I would often get regen limitation for the evening commute since the car is not charged at work.

The tire pressure can wait. Keep the balls warm.

PapaSmurf | 06. Dezember 2013

Good idea.

It makes sense to use the timed recharging so that there is activity in the battery pack in the 30-60 minutes prior to departure. Get that battery management system circulating and warming up in cold weather.

No need to recharge as soon as you get home in the evening. If your schedule is predictable, let it recharge in the hours right before you depart each day.

Bighorn | 06. Dezember 2013

@ papa
When it's very cold, it takes a lot longer for the battery to begin accepting a charge. At least in my limited experience, I saw no appreciable warming in the first 1-2 hours which is why I lowered the amperage and extended the charge time. Last night I charged at 10A/ 240V and look forward to seeing what -22F will do today.

PapaSmurf | 06. Dezember 2013

Wow, that is cold. My garage is around 40 F and once the car is outside it hits around 25-30 F this week. So I guess that is not comparable to your situation.

I wish we could schedule the climate temp also to start warming up the cabin about 15 minutes before my typical departure time. That would be a nice feature to have a scheduled timer to warm up the inside while still plugged.

Bighorn | 06. Dezember 2013

Today, Stardate (I have no idea)
Wake up temps warmed to -11F for my commute. Despite being on charge for the previous 12 hours, I had a regen limit of 45kW today. I don't know if it is because I dropped my amperage from 12 to 10 or because I had been parked outside for a couple hours in -18F last night. Over the course of the drive, regen never improved and actually appeared to drop to 40 kW at one point. I was more frugal with the defroster as there seems to be a chronic band of frost by the driver's A pillar that wouldn't clear regardless. Door to door, I averaged 228Wh/m--not bad.

Theresa | 06. Dezember 2013

Bighorn, Wow! I would love to even see that number on a nice clear sunny warm day. The best number I have ever seen is 250. My trip this morning showed around 500. The battery was warming and it was only a 8 mile trip. It was 8 F when I left my unheated garage (probably around 35 F).

Bighorn | 06. Dezember 2013

Don't feel bad, it's downhill and I see usage in the 190s on more temperate days. After completing a roundtrip, my usage is up near 300.

I think if you tried the overnight charging, you'd see that 500 figure drop precipitously. I also pre-warmed the cabin for 20 minutes and my app showed a temp of 86 despite a setting of 74.

Chunky Jr. | 06. Dezember 2013

Seems like a good feature for a future upgrade to figure all of this out automatically and do the optimal charging based on car temperature.

Panoz | 06. Dezember 2013

@Chunky - as a future owner in a cold climate, I'd say your suggest is a good one. The extended trickle charge suggested by the OP is a backdoor way to warm the battery for a long period of time.

I'm still surprised that the Tesla, once done charging, doesn't use shore power to warm the battery.

MNGreene | 06. Dezember 2013

@Bighorn Thanks for the idea, I think you are on to something good! I charged all last night at a lower 18A and preheated for about 15 minutes in the morning while charging. I had way less regen limiting than the previous day and the regen limit went away during a 20 mile commute. Outside temp was around 0 F. Garage temp just above freezing.

Bighorn | 06. Dezember 2013

Saw the effects of a cold battery tonight. Lows to -24F with 30 mile average of 600 Wh/m. First time seeing no regen--seems significantly different than having as little as 5 kW. Almost feels like there's some residual power moving the car forward. Also funny to see 10 kW of output with foot off the accelerator due to battery warming and climate consumption. I'm glad this is freakish weather, but ultimately it's been extremely comfortable always having a warm car and the decreased efficiency is more an academic exercise as I have a short commute.

Glad you saw some benefit, MN.

TeslaMom | 07. Dezember 2013

I've been doing an eight hour charge for the last two weeks. I simply adjust the amperage so charging completes within an hour of leaving in the morning. Garage temp is in the 40s with outside in the 20-35' range. I preheat the cabin for about 20 minutes while plugged in.
For a 18 mile commute I typically consume only 15 miles of rated range all with the cabin and seat heaters running. Power consumption is about 265 kW which is less than what I see during the summer.
My return trip is with limited regen and consumption in the 350 range since I don't plug in at the office (yet).
Hope this helps!

Brian H | 07. Dezember 2013

Would require scheduling your departure -- the car would have to know when you want to leave. Coming feature.

Captain_Zap | 07. Dezember 2013

This is some great information Bighorn. Thank you for sharing what you have learned. Only once in my life I experienced -20F.
I found that the difference between -10F and -20F is astounding.

thranx | 07. Dezember 2013

@Panoz, Chunky: I would think a bit of software for version 6 or so could add something that would handle this. A setting/control that would say, "Warm battery for..." coupled with a simple timer.

Bighorn | 07. Dezember 2013

It's been gratifying to get to see how the MS handles at the fringes--a trial by fire, so to speak, since one of the most common questions I got from my test-riders was "what about the winter?" I've only seen temps this cold here once in the last 17 winters and a neighbor pointed out that it's a few degrees cooler here (-27F this am) than Antarctica (Antartica, for you;)). I passed one of those friends in their Cayenne Turbo, bundled up as for an expedition while I can take off my coat at the outset of any journey courtesy of the climate app. Another friend was lamenting how their new Q7 TDI was dead in the water because of the cold.

These temps are crazy--they remind me of when I was a "yout" back in NY and we'd go skiing in Lake Placid. Your nose hairs freeze on first inspiration. You can't breathe through your mouth for the stinging in your lungs and the coughing fits. Have to breathe slowly through your nose, preferably through a scarf or neck of your jacket. Talking to friends in Alaska, I know there's a whole nother level there with temps 30 degrees colder where cars, if you can start them, can overheat because the antifreeze sludges.

I don't see letting a charge finish some time before you're ready to go as that gives the battery a chance to cool down. I've dispensed with completing a charge and arrange for the charging to be almost done for when I anticipate driving. I agree that future software will come in handy to achieve this battery warming without forethought. Perhaps some adjustments have been already been made for the cold weather package.

Panoz | 07. Dezember 2013

Everybody is misunderstanding my suggestion. My idea is that AFTER the battery is charged, shore power is used to keep the battery warm ALL THE TIME. Continual (but minimal) power draw. No timer. No having to know when I'll leave. Just plug the !?#!! car in at night, and in the morning the battery is charged AND WARM regardless of when I leave.

With my idea, you could leave your Tesla outside on a cold night and hop in at ANY TIME with a warm battery if you plugged it in. If it was sufficiently charged at your destination, then just 110v would keep the battery warm.

wcalvin | 07. Dezember 2013

Another software design would be to use battery power to warm the battery if more than half-charged.

Bighorn | 07. Dezember 2013

I hear what you're saying--I don't know how a minimal power draw could counteract really low temps, though. Options are always good.

Captain_Zap | 07. Dezember 2013


This event is a doozy. I read this at the NWS site:


The temperatures at SEA-TAC are some of the most moderate in the region. Everyone else can expect extremes. There was only one time in recorded history that SEA-TAC hit zero Fahrenheit.

Hello southerners, it's coming your way!

PapaSmurf | 07. Dezember 2013

It was 20 F today and I got my first 12 volt low warning. Car started fine though and worked normally otherwise. Regen limited to 15 kW initially which was the lowest I have ever seen it. Battery warming alert on.

Is anyone else getting low 12 volt warnings due to cold weather?

Captain_Zap | 07. Dezember 2013


Is your car fairly new? Is there a chance that it may still have one of the inferior 12v batteries that are being replaced?

In any case, I'd call Ownership and select "questions about your car" and let them know, if I were you. I bet that they would diagnose while they had you on the line and be right on top of it if there is a problem.

DSurber | 07. Dezember 2013

What is really needed is a "Depart Soon" button. Pushing this button on the car or on the app would notify the car that you intend to start driving in 10-15 minutes. The car would then heat/cool the battery and cabin as appropriate using shore power if available. If you don't leave within 15 minutes the car goes back to sleep. But if you leave after 16 minutes the cabin and battery are still very near optimal temperatures.

We humans don't know all the parameters that go into preconditioning the car, nor should we have to. The climate control is already set to a reasonably appropriate cabin temp. The car knows what the battery temp should be. It knows the environmental temp. It can compute how fast it can heat/cool the battery and cabin to optimal temperature. The only thing it doesn't know is the target departure time. The "Depart Soon" button provides that. So the car has all the info it needs to prepare the car for departure.

The driver presses the "Depart Soon" button on the app. The car starts heat/cooling the cabin and battery using shore power. Fifteen minutes later the driver pulls away in a warm cabin with the battery at operating temperature. No big hits on range. No reductions in power or regen.

A timed departure, "Depart At" 7:43AM is a trivial addition.

Chunky Jr. | 07. Dezember 2013

It seems like the car should be able to learn your basic habits. It knows when it is stationary, and when it was moving. Over time, it could learn what time you typically leave for work. Coupled with temperature info, it could do the right thing. Perhaps the app could have a scheduler, kind of like the Nest thermostat's app that you can adjust. Maybe that is overkill, but an example of things that could easily be done, and another example of why Tesla is such an awesome car. It's more like a gadget with wheels.

Panoz | 07. Dezember 2013

@Bighorn - as you are an owner (and I am not), I of course defer to your knowledge as to what is needed to keep the car warm. I would expect that if a Tesla is plugged in to shore power outside, that at any time the battery is warm. It makes no sense to me that the car completes charging, say, at 2:00am on a cold night and then goes to sleep, with the owner starting a "cold" car the next morning. If the power's available, why NOT keep the car at optimal temperature?

Bighorn | 07. Dezember 2013

I don't have figures, but my sense is that it takes a lot of energy and time to warm the battery. That said, the energy is going to be sacrificed at some point to the detriment of efficiency. For the sake of maintaining distance travel, that energy is better expended in the garage. A seemingly warm battery can get cold while driving necessitating energy directed toward battery warming. Driving in these temperatures, one wonders if the battery would ever reach top efficiency.

I haven't seen any 12V warnings, but twice I saw a warning approximating "Key not in car", while it was in my pocket. Don't know if this reflects a low fob battery or something else. It only came on for a few seconds. I do think it's a new feature of 5.8 as others have noted driving off without the fob and receiving no notice in the past.

Brian H | 07. Dezember 2013

Storing the battery warm is harder on the battery than cold. Chemistry.

Coldest I ever experienced was -65°F. Longest cold run was 4 straight days of -40° (F or C - at that point they're the same!)

TeslaMom | 07. Dezember 2013

@ Panoz
From my experience being plugged into a 110v outlet with a warm battery does provide a slow charge, but will not warm the battery to avoid regen. Tried this for a few days when the temp was in the 20's over a 6-8 hour period.
Does anyone know the minimum charge rate to keep the battery warm at about 25' ?

PapaSmurf | 07. Dezember 2013


Turning on the climate controls to warm up the cabin seems to be the equivalent of "Depart Soon". I have noticed much better car performance in the cold weather when I do that 10-15 minutes before I depart.

It is not wasting battery power to heat battery, etc. also maintaining cabin temp seems less intensive than the warming up phase. So raising the interior temp by 30 degrees while it is still plugged in seems best.

Windsurfer | 07. Dezember 2013

@bighorn: that's great information. We get the occasional cold snap here in Savannah, GA, but nothing like what you have. I wonder if in the summer slower trickle charges timed to end coincident with one's departure time might cool the battery for greater efficiency.

drp | 07. Dezember 2013

I do the same and I plug into a 110 outlet at the office. I do get some charge and it helps warm quicker on departure after work. Supercharger warms the battery instantly but I got only @140-145mph charge in the recent cold in northern Illinois. Last two night @7degrees and no regen on short trips. In the temps over 32 the supercharger is 180-220mph, depending on now low it was at the start.
I slow charge every night and time it to be at the recommended charge by departure. If it's full when I wake, I add a few minutes by ranging the range while I shower or make coffee.
On weekends, I stay real slow, 5amps.dont need the range. Drive 165ish daily during the week.

Preheating the cabin while plugged in makes it easier to use less power during the commute and the cabin stays comfortable

DSurber | 07. Dezember 2013


Turing on the climate control is not the same as "Depart Soon". I describe "Depart Soon" as preparing the car for departure. This would include turning on the climate control but would also heat/cool the battery, calibrate the dilithium crystal and anything else the car thought appropriate. In particular, in warm weather the car would stop charging and start using shore power to cool the battery.

bb0tin | 07. Dezember 2013

I love this thread :-O People chiming in with their experiences, experiments and possible enhancements. All done with a positive attitude of the possibilities the Tesla brings. No negativity or gimme gimme gimme. All tbose people who have lately become disillusioned with the forum should be less so after reading this topic.

larryh | 08. Dezember 2013

"Turing on the climate control is not the same as "Depart Soon". "

Why else would you turn on climate control via the app? Especially when on shore power that should heat or cool the battery.

Bighorn | 08. Dezember 2013

In the context of the thread, turning on the climate app very efficiently warms the cabin, but has a fairly negligible impact on battery warming. There is a distinct battery warming function that the car undergoes when driving. If I'm following, the "depart soon" function would be more goal-oriented in addressing the battery's temperature than just sharing the frictional losses of the cabin heating process.

PapaSmurf | 08. Dezember 2013

As to the question of how long it takes for the battery pack to get to an optimal temperature while recharging, I think that is only about 10-20 minutes. Of course that will be different for someone in extreme conditions like Bighorn. Bighorn's battery at below 0 F likely is in a very different state of self protection.

When the car is at 20-30 degree F, then I start recharging at 240 volts / 40 amps, it doesn't recharge at +30 mi/hr like I am used to at normal temps.

When really cold It is at a number less than usual, somewhere between +16 mi/hr and +24 mi/hr. Then after 10-20 minutes it gradually increased to the normal +30/hr.

So based on this purely amateur observation, my guess is that the battery is operating within normal parameters after about 20 minutes of incoming energy at 40 amps.

darthbeldar | 08. Dezember 2013

@ PapaSmurf

I also got the 12V battery low warning with temps around 15F yesterday, still drove ok but took a while to get full regeneration. Also car didnt charge as scheduled at 6am, so not sure if cold weather caused that as well.

Panoz | 08. Dezember 2013

I had an epiphany....maybe the battery is only warmed when it's charging. I thought they were separate events. If they are inseparable, then the suggestion that a "departure time" feature be created is very desirable.

My idea (Tesla should hire me) is a "departure" mode that calculates the LOWEST charge rate so as to trickle charge the battery to completion until you leave. The battery is warm, is charged, and it has time to balance out better if this is used. You win, the car wins, I win with the millions in royalties my idea brings in.

Oh and I copyrighted the word "battery". I'm on a roll here...

Captain_Zap | 08. Dezember 2013

Doh! ...and we have been giving Tesla ideas all this time for free.
What is the old saying? 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration?


mario.kadastik | 08. Dezember 2013

Well I've only been an owner for whopping 4.5 days, but it's been -3..+3C temps. When I set the climate on and the charge limit 5% higher in the morning ca 30 min before leaving the car starts to pull the amps (currently limiting it to 3x12A due to house fuse), but the km/h is 0. After about 5-10min it starts to trickle to 1km/h and I guess as the battery and interior war, up the rate gradually increases. The outcome is indeed a relatively smooth energy curve instead of taking a cold car from parking lot and seeing off the chart usage.

Of course the past 4.5 days I've only done max 10km trips which is the worst possible usage and average 300Wh/km or ca 480Wh/mile. However at the end of the trips the usage is alwas far slower, around 200-230... Still waiting for first range charge and 230 mile trip...

Bighorn | 08. Dezember 2013

Congrats on getting your car, Mario! I also noticed on initiation that all the energy goes towards warming the battery and mileage isn't added. This was with 16A/240V service. I don't know if folks pushing higher amps are seeing a more rapid warm up/charge initiation.

DSurber | 08. Dezember 2013

Heating and cooling the battery is separable from charging. The Model S has a sophisticated battery thermal management system; that's one of it's strengths. Charging does warm the battery. That is good if the battery is below operating temp but not so great if the battery is above operating temperature. The car can heat or cool the battery without charging it. If shore power is available it can heat or cool the battery without discharging it either.

Much of this thread is about how to trick the car into heating the battery to operating temperature prior to departure. That's indirect. The Model S can directly heat (or cool) the battery. That capability is not under driver control or at least not very directly.

The purpose of the "Depart Soon" button is to tell the car to do whatever is appropriate for eminent departure. If the battery is cold it should heat the battery, using shore power if available. For this the car would use the thermal management system to directly heat the battery. It might also charge the battery if that is the better way to get heat into it. If the battery is too hot such as immediately after supercharging, the car will stop charging and continue to use shore power to cool the battery. It will also activate the climate control and anything else that is appropriate. The big difference between "Depart Soon" and just turning on the climate control is "Depart Soon" directly heats or cools the battery to operating temperature. It doesn't depend on indirect effects.

I would not want turning on the climate control to mean "Depart Soon". I frequently start the climate control as I walk away from the car to maintain the cabin temperature for occupants while I'm gone.

Captain_Zap | 08. Dezember 2013

@Mario - Congratulations on the delivery of your car.

I saw some of the TV news segments about you getting your car. You are quite the celebrity!

Thank you for spreading the Tesla grin across Europe.