Model S Performance in Winter (Canada)?

Model S Performance in Winter (Canada)?

What cold weather provisions are there built into the design of the model S and how is its Performance affected?
What effect does cold (Canada ~ -10 to -25 Deg C) winter have on battery life / mileage range?Especially with Winter items ON such as interior heater, rear window defroster, heated seats, etc?
In other words, if I am driving in winter with the interior heater and rear window defroster on, what % loss of mileage distance / range should I expect? My guess ~25% reduction in mileage?

How does the cold weather effect the Lithium Battery charge / performance.

(Note: I live in Toronto, Canada and have a Reservation for a TESLA Model S, Performance)

Thanks, Currie

Mycroft | 03. Januar 2012

Your guess is as good as any others. Tesla has designed the Model S to function in both the hottest areas (via cooling the battery pack) and the coldest areas (via warming the battery pack when necessary). However, until Tesla provides results of real-world testing, nobody knows for sure.

Robert.Boston | 03. Januar 2012

A critical question: are you plugged in when you start?

Suppose you are, with your car happily sucking juice off the grid while you suck java out of your mug over the morning paper. You've used your smartphone to get the car up to temp, defrost the windows, warm up the battery pack, etc. Now when you head off, all the car has to do is maintain the warm state. That's pretty cheap.

If, though, you're not plugged in, all that "0-60" energy for warming has to come from the battery, rather than the grid.

The Tesla systems keep the battery in a stable thermal environment, so that shouldn't be adversely affected -- again, provided you're starting from a plugged-in state.

William13 | 03. Januar 2012

The battery info from Panasonic only goes to -10C. At his tempature the battery still gives about 70% of it's power. Please note that as the battery warms it will give more power. By the way, the incremental energy is lost but not the unused energy. By that I mean if you have 100kWh in the battery at 25C you would only be able to draw out 70kWh at -10C. If however you only used half of the energy ie 35kWh at -10C, you would have 50kWh left at 25C. Luckily the battery heats itself up as you drive even if you don't have the car plugged in. Unfortunately I don't know what happens to the battery at -30C.

CurrieG | 03. Januar 2012

Thanks!... That's great insight... Did not think of it that way!

The good news is that my company is also providing Class 2 complementry charging stations!

It would be good to know what the W/H load is as you use the Winter heaters, etc while driving (and A/C), then you could calculate the reduction in range as you go (also knowing 300 w/h/mile).

Timo | 04. Januar 2012

Note that in cold climates snow does reduce mileage quite a lot. Bad road is much worse mileage killer than temperature effect to battery.

Brian H | 04. Januar 2012

Compensated, except wrt mad Norsemen, by the generally slower speed of driving on bad or snowy roads.

Volker.Berlin | 04. Januar 2012

Just found this, thought you might be interested (the last minute is the most interesting):

There's a lot to be found on youtube if you look for "Tesla Roadster winter" and similar keywords. No, this does not answer your question with regard to range, sorry.

phb | 04. Januar 2012

That's a great video! I'm especially impressed with the lack of drama when he stops on the incline and then starts back up again. It also looks perfectly planted in all of the bends. It's safe to assume that he's equipped snow tires, right?

Mycroft | 04. Januar 2012

They have to be winter tires. No way would summer tires get up that slope from a stop.

CurrieG | 04. Januar 2012

Thanks... Not too worried about the Winter driving in Toronto/Ontario, Canada

The battery charge affect / range is the issue.... all the more reason to play it safe with the 300 battery.

Mycroft | 04. Januar 2012

Agreed. Then you'll be able to set the temperature in the car at any time without having the worry that the battery might get too low.

Brian H | 04. Januar 2012

I think the preheating can't possibly run the battery down much. Consider the power/heat from 1 kwh. A hotplate on your range on red heat for 1 hour!

And that's a small fraction of the charge available.

Douglas3 | 05. Januar 2012

I've had my Tesla Roadster out in -26C weather, and in many ways it tolerates it better than most ICE vehicles. If the car hasn't been plugged in, so the battery pack is cold, you have a bit less power (not that you'd notice it unless you floor it). Also the regenerative braking is disabled at first.

While the battery is cold it's a bit less efficient. Once it warms up the car behaves normally. You might lose 10 km range during the warm-up period. At highway speeds you will see a little more wind resistance, and driving through snow will probably reduce your range as well.

In extreme cold the heater consumes at most 5% to 10% of your range; the latter number would be at lower speeds where you have much more range to begin with.

I would plan on 15% loss of range; it's probably less than that in most real-world situations. I don't think there's any effect on range when the temperature is above freezing.

Brian H | 05. Januar 2012

In practice, did you find that driving thru snow was a net loser, considering that you're (necessarily) doing lower speeds (= more efficiency)?

Douglas3 | 05. Januar 2012


I've generally avoided driving my Roadster on snowy days; I don't like to muck it up with all that sand and salt, and it's a pain to hand-wash the car in the winter. So I have limited hard data on driving in the snow. But I can definitely confirm that the range increases dramatically at slower speeds, so it would compensate for the added rolling resistance. I suspect you're right; in most situations you'd probably end up with more range, not less, assuming you don't drive like an idiot.

I've also had people say, aren't you going to run out of juice if you get stuck in a traffic jam? Well, no. If you end up driving at 30 kph then the range almost doubles compared to 100 kph. Even if you're running the heater full blast you're going to gain range, not lose it. Heater power would only be a concern if you were at a dead stop for hours.

Given my experience with the Roadster, I don't have any concerns whatsoever about driving the Model S in the winter. I plan to sell my gas car and use the Model S as my winter daily driver.

Volker.Berlin | 06. Januar 2012

Douglas3, great input, thanks for sharing!

Muskoka | 06. Januar 2012

It was interesting to see mention of the snow issue - and how the Active suspension will help raise the Model S for snow conditions - I have not seen, however, any notes about the extremely low, front radiator and scoop at the front of the vehicle... this issue which was noted at the Canadian Model S launch, especially for those that periodically hit large chunks of ice dropping from tractor-trailer wheel wells on the 400-series highways, doesn't seem to be going away.

Even with Active suspension lifting the vehicle, that extremely low radiator and thin tube support bar remain a huge concern. Most GT type designs, while keeping a fairly low front spoiler and in many cases, air duct design, move the radiator itself higher up to prevent frequent punctures. In the Model S, the Active suspension will have to lift the vehicle quite a ways up in order to get it's radiator(s) even remotely high enough to avoid these huge ice chunks.

I don't think the real issue is range/battery life or cold weather systems support - sounds like Tesla has handled these. However, the extremely low radiator(s) and relatively weak support/weak mesh at the front of the Model S seems to be the biggest winter driving concern at the moment.

Timo | 06. Januar 2012

@Douglas3, to add your comments: Remember also that in Model S battery is directly below you, so you have quite good insulation and heat source underneath unlike in Roadster, and roof is solid hard top so less heat loss there. In cold environment insulation means a lot, if you don't lose the heat you need only small amount of energy maintaining the heat. I bet Model S performs better than Roadster in that sense.

Brian H | 06. Januar 2012

sounds like the best protection would be another car. Keep some other vehicle between you and the tractor-trailer. Or stay out of the same lane.

Alternatively, shoot a few seconds of video with your phone camera prior to and after the ice-drop, making sure to get the license #. Then sue.


Douglas3 | 06. Januar 2012

@Timo, my Roadster has a hardtop, but point taken about the battery. The floor won't be stone cold.

Brian H | 06. Januar 2012

Douglas, have you tried that Roadster floor duct suggestion someone made: block the passenger's vent? It boosts the driver side enough to keep you warm, and the passenger side seems to still stay warm enough.

CurrieG | 06. Januar 2012


Thanks for the Info & Data! Great news!
This is exactly the kind of information & experience I was looking for.

I also plan to sell my Gas car, TL, when I get the Model S and then drive it year round.

BTW... I drive the 401/400 all Winter long and I rarely, if ever, see large lunps of Ice on the roadway that would dammage the car.

Thanks Everyone!

Brian H | 07. Januar 2012

I think that happens on snowy or slushy roads, that haven't been cleared. The 400/401 are heavily travelled and kept plowed and salted at all times in the winter, so I s'pose it's less likely to happen.

Douglas3 | 07. Januar 2012

Brian H,

I've not tried blocking the passenger vent, yet, but I could see how it could help.


I've driven many times in absolutely horrible weather on the 401, and have never been assaulted by large chunks of ice from trucks. Most ice that comes off vehicles is the slushy stuff that accumulates behind the wheels.

Mike_ModelS_P457 | 10. April 2012

Loved the video. Looked to me like it was using the all season 19' wheels... which makes perfect sense. Despite my desire for the larger wheel, the reality is the Model S will be my every day car, and in CT (NY metro) we get snow.

Brian H | 10. April 2012

The brief glimpse of the tires looked like deep snow-tire treads. Love to see the X on the same course.

mvbf | 11. April 2012

Yes, it would be interesting to see how different they perform in a side by side on this and other challenging courses. I would guess the model X would do a worse on cornering and obstacle avoidance due to higher center of gravity and better at accelerating with the two motor AWD option, especially uphill if they tested that.

Once the Model S has AWD it should test better on everything that does not require clearance. I really do hope they maintain 8" + clearance going into production with the Model X to maximize its suitability for drivers in different conditions from each other. It would be nice to be able to have enough clearance without the complexity, cost, and limitations of an active air suspension.

mvbf | 11. April 2012

Yes, it would be interesting to see how different they perform in a side by side on this and other challenging courses. I would guess the model X would do a worse on cornering and obstacle avoidance due to higher center of gravity and better at accelerating with the two motor AWD option, especially uphill if they tested that.

Once the Model S has AWD it should test better on everything that does not require clearance. I really do hope they maintain 8" + clearance going into production with the Model X to maximize its suitability for drivers in different conditions from each other. It would be nice to be able to have enough clearance without the complexity, cost, and limitations of an active air suspension.

mvbf | 11. April 2012

arg double post. I got an error on the first attempt which is why I reposted. If someone actually administers these threads, they are welcome to delete the second identical post as well as this post.

Volker.Berlin | 12. April 2012

mvbf, apart from higher cost, what specifically do you consider "limitations of an active air suspension"?

mvbf | 12. April 2012

mostly that it can not maintain increased height above very low speeds.

Volker.Berlin | 13. April 2012

mvbf, I understand but you have to look very closely to warrant that claim. As far as I understand, the regular suspension sits at the air suspension's medium level, meaning it does not offer increased height at all, regardless of speed. As far as I can see, increased ride height at low speeds is an extra over the regular suspension, not a shortcoming of air suspension. Your argument goes for the air suspension, not against it.

Brian H | 13. April 2012

I think the TM system is designed to lower to minimum level at high speeds, on the assumption you must be driving on a smooth highway surface and minimizing drag. If you do 50-70 mph in rough off-road terrain, that could be a problem. Becoming airborne on short notice is another. ;)

Volker.Berlin | 14. April 2012

Normal height = 6"
High Level 1 = 0.90" taller; When the vehicle accelerates above 19 mph, the clearance adjusts back to Normal height.
High level 2 = 1.3" above Standard and can be used for ascending a steep driveway or fording deep snow. Clearance reverts to High Level 1 above 10 mph.
Low Level = 0.79" under Standard; Active Air Suspension will automatically lower the vehicle for highway driving to improve aerodynamics. Low Level is also accessible from the touchscreen for loading/unloading of passengers. When the vehicle begins driving the clearance adjusts back to Normal height.
(Walter Franck, Ownership Experience Advocate)

It is my understanding that the lower-than-normal setting is only manually activated, or possibly automatically chosen at highway speeds. This is hardly a limitation of the air suspension.

Having reread mvbf's post (page 1 of this thread) I noted that he refers to the Model X. Mind you, the numbers given by Walter refer to the Model S. For the Model X I'd assume similar relative heights "above/under standard", but a significantly different "normal height" in the first place.

mvbf | 16. April 2012

To be more clear a Model S with active air suspension is definitely going to do better clearance wise than a Model S without it. However, a Model X with standard clearance at and above the heights of the heights of the Model S with air suspension is more preferable to some because that clearance is NOT limited by the speed you drive the vehicle. It would be nice if the clearance of the Model X were great enough that one did not feel the need for an active air suspension.

That being said I am glad that the Model S offers one. For my particular driving conditions, I would not consider a Model S without one.

flar | 17. April 2012

It was my impression that the air suspension was primarily for better ride and performance than a regular suspension and that the ride height adjustments were just a perk. From their description - "Much more than a great ride and handling package, ..."

This isn't so much a case of "feeling the need for an active air suspension" for required clearance as "enjoying the added clearance benefits when one chooses the air suspension for its performance"...

mvbf | 18. April 2012

Yes, I want the active air suspensions "performance" of not hitting my battery pack on the road surface when my wheels go into a 6 inch to one foot deep frozen mud rut. Or the "performance" of not getting stuck when I realize I turned down a road the plow has not got to yet after a 1 foot snow.

To me the active air suspension is both about clearance and performance. When it is higher I would guess the performance handling of the vehicle would actually go down, hence the speed restrictions in its up states. And then at highway speeds lowering would most definitely increase its performance and efficiency. That is why I guess it is required/included with the performance equipped Model S.

So to me to answer is the active air suspension for clearance or performance, my answer is yes.

keithz | 16. Mai 2012

Does the Model S require anything special for tires? I'm wondering about winter tires. What would be required?

Teoatawki | 16. Mai 2012

Don't get the 21" rims. AFAIK no one has found suitable winter or even all-weather tires for the 21's.

Someone please prove me wrong!

CurrieG | 16. Mai 2012

My plan is to get the nice 21" rims with tires for summer high performance driving when i order the car and then buy a set of basic 19" rims for winter tires... It is never a good idea to swap your summer / winter tires on the same rims. It wares out the seal and rims... I have always had two sets of rims (summer / winter) for all my cars.

toto_48313 | 17. Mai 2012

Same plan for me CurrieG. It's definitly the best way to do if you want to get the best from your tires and wheels.

jerry3 | 17. Mai 2012

Right. Every time you mount and demount a tire there is a chance of damaging it.

Teoatawki | 17. Mai 2012

What I really meant was you would most likely be unhappy with *just* the 21" rims.

dieselboy77 | 19. Juli 2013

To be honest with you all, I originally Planned to got a Tesla S this year, but Living in Montreal And after I read that keeping the S for more than 24H with a temp colder than -25 will void the battery warranty, it worries me a bit more... so to me, this is the biggest concern you might have until the conceive a S model adapted for cold environment which I think they already plan

RobertMontreal | 19. Juli 2013


Tesla have removed any restrictions on the battery warranty, so that shouldn't be a concern for you anymore...

I live in Montreal as well but I haven't had a real winter yet with my car having picked it up in March. But I have no concerns that it'll be just fine.

GeirT | 19. Juli 2013

@ dieselboy77

You better check this one more time. For Norway deliveries a winter package option is a choice. That takes care of the worries you express. It would surprise me big time that the package is not offered for Canada as well.

tobi_ger | 19. Juli 2013

Has anyone looked on the underside of their MS battery in person?
There are some small openings (most likely used for swapping), which, I wonder, if those could accumulate some dirt/snow/salt etc. in winter time?

Andyro | 20. Januar 2014

Tesla recently confirmed for me that battery is warranted so long as it is plugged in in these subzero conditions. Unplugged batteries for -25degC for 24hrs plus are not. I do not have a garage (yet) so this was something I wanted to get in writing.

Also - I have seen rated range decline faster than my distance indicated in GPS (to be expected, see energy graph, deviation from 'rated' line, by a rule of thumb of kilometers/hr per degree of temperature. So, -20degC reduced my starting rated range of 260km down to 200km after just 30 minutes on the road. Yes speed matters, but at 85km/hr I was chewing through 300Wh where in warmer weather 250Wh or less is easy (bit of snow on roads, snow on car/drag).

So in other words, if I plan a longer trip, I need to plan for a greater margin, say, one km for every degree below zero for every hour of travel. 220km trip at -20degC? Plan for 2.5hrs on the road, reduce range by at least 50km, so top battery to 300min, and better yet 400 for cabin heat penalties, emergencies, etc. as I often have nowhere to charge enroute!

Brian H | 20. Januar 2014

Ya, go for all the margin you can get in winter.