Winter Climates and the Model S

Winter Climates and the Model S

Has the Model S (which I am very interested in) been tested in colder northern climates? What is the effect on battery life/endurance in sub zero temperatures? Winnipeg has a temperature range from the high 30's (Celsius) in the summer to -40's in the winter. I noticed some posts regarding -20, but it did not say celsius or fahrenheit. In addition, in colder climates, would the battery pack require a "battery blanket"? Lastly, I am wondering that if I was to purchase this car, would I be able to drive it all year or have to park it in a heated garage for 3-4 months? I thank you for your time and await your response.

Can Eng

wjjw73 | 14. September 2010

There are also other parts of the car which cause problems.
The door handles of Model S are coming out automatically when you press on it or come in the near of the car with the key. But when this is frozen or full of ice I'm not sure if you can even enter the car.
Also the trunk is opening electric. So when there is heavy snow on the back of the bar I hope the electronic engine for opening the trunk will not be destroyed.
But I think hope all this things are tested by Tesla.. ;-)
I live in Austria and I have similar problems with "normal" cars and door handles.. :-/

Timo | 14. September 2010

That -20 is celcius. For Roadster there is a advice not to leave your car outside unplugged over -20 celcius cold. -40 C is a lot more

For those that has not experienced that -20C is a temperature that you can go outside for several minutes without something like gloves and you wont get frost bites with winter shoes as long as you keep moving but in -40C you will get frost bites almost immediately to any exposed low circulation area (feet, hands) especially if it is associated with a wind, and those shiny indoor walkers are definitely not enough. You can actually feel how air that you breathe tries to freeze moisture in your lungs.

Ice in -40C is also very hard. Not that slushy snowy stuff you get near 0C temperatures. If you have ice buildup in for example door caskets it is nearly impossible to open that door without ripping those caskets to pieces, so worry about door handles is a real one.

Jaffray | 14. September 2010

The trunk on the Model S appears to be more of a hatchback style as opposed to a conventional trunk.

My last two Lexus (400h & 450h) both had electric tailgates.

Although I generally would clear the snow off of the rear window of the vehicle prior to opening the hatch, the electric motors in the Lexus were always up to the job. I'm sure Tesla will take this into consideration.

Can Eng | 15. September 2010

Thank you to all that replied. I would imagine that the pop out door handles could be a problem, especially during/after a slushy snow storm. Typically, I carry a small canister of "Lock De-icer" around in the winter to unfreeze the car locks if they get stuck.

As for the trunk, it would not be a problem as long as you could access the interior. Most people in winter climates who care for their vehicles tend to brush the snow off before driving away.

My real concern is whether the car will be/could be equipped with an auxillary battery blanket that could be plugged in similar to a traditional block heater. Or is it by plugging in the car to charge that you are creating enough battery heat to keep the system warm?

Lastly, I would also imagine that as a luxury car, it would be equipped with all the necessary climate controls for a winter environment.

Thank you and I await your responses.

Can Eng

Ad van der Meer | 16. September 2010

I could imagine that interior of the car could be warmed up when plugged in. I don't know if that would be enough to get rid of a snow blanket or iced door handles??

Timo | 16. September 2010

Car has internal battery AC. It will keep the battery warm as long as you keep it plugged in (and even if not, as long as battery has charge left).

Problem is prolonged periods in very cold without chance to plug it in. I think Li-ion batteries might get damaged. Not all though, so it is question of what chemistry Tesla batteries is using. Maybe also what liquid they are using for AC, maybe that freezes over over -20C cold, and that is the reason they say that it should not be left without plugging in -20C and not the actual battery.

There is some contradictory information about Li-ion batteries in the net. Some say "do not freeze", some say that it wont hurt it much if at all as long as it is only half-way charged and you warm it up before using or charging. I too would like to hear what really can happen if you leave it out in over -20C temperature without plugging in.

Lithium reacts very strongly with water (lithium is alkali metal) so lithium-ion batteries do not contain water. Freezing that is not an issue here.

Timo | 18. September 2010

I think Tesla is using different battery chemistry for 300mile version and I just found out about Boston Power Swing batteries:

(From Autobloggreen about Saab 9-3 ePower, and then some surfing).

That one says its operating range is between -40°C-+70°C. Plenty for me. It also has quite good volumetric energy density of 420Wh/L which means that Model S roughly 90kWh 300mile battery would be about size of 214L using those. 214L is about 10cm * 150cm * 150cm. Should fit nicely into bottom of the Model S.

I'm curious what battery type Model S will use for 300mile version. Clearly it is possible to get that easily fit into car, but that operating temperature is what interests me.

Vawlkus | 21. September 2010

While the batteries getting too cold is a concern, it's a minor one. The major one is the cooling system around the batteries that's nestled inside the battery pack. If the coolant that circulates inside there freezes, then the battery won't able to regulate it's temperature anymore, and THAT is damaging to the batteries.

bcn0209 | 30. Oktober 2010 bad will range degrade when its -30, you have the heater on full blast and the headlights on? I mean come on, simple thermodynamics would have a surface area of at least 1.5M squared and a rate of heat loss through the glass and metal that would be dissipating quite a bit of heat so the heater would have to pump out a significant number of BTU's to keep the car warm inside for the passenger...I am thinking you will consume at least 1500-2000 watts at full tilt. That's a LOT of energy. its the equivalent of 2HP-2.5HP. Its also a lot of amps! Lets say the pack is a 60 volt pack...its probably higher than that but just for arguments sake. 1500 watts/60 volts= 25 amps! again at 120 volts would be 1500 watts/120 volts=12.5 amps! that's a huge amount of current just to stay warm! You are not going to get 300 miles range with that going on!

Tim10 | 30. Oktober 2010

Speed, outside temperature, driving style all going to affect your range, pretty much a given whether an ICE, Hybrid or BEV.

Timo | 30. Oktober 2010

You are not going to use that 2000W all of time. Initial heating the cabine maybe, but after that it drops quite fast. What affects range in winter time is increased rolling resistance from stubbed tires and snow. Heater is not going to affect that much. In fact cold weather means that there is not going any power to cool down battery pack and that actually saves some energy. Headlight effect on range is minuscule. Tiny. Less than tiny.

Vawlkus | 01. November 2010

From what I've read, with either the A/C or the heater on full bore for 8 hours, you'd loose about 10 miles of range. Trust me, it's a pittance.

530xd | 03. November 2010

So the heater wont use so much electric that a diesel heater will be installed after the car is imported to Norway?

Vawlkus | 03. November 2010

Not a chance.

Brian H | 03. November 2010

-40°C is pretty rough, but -40x°F is just as bad!

Heh. ;)
I've experienced -65°F, and -35°F with a moderate breeze was much worse.

Timo | 04. November 2010

-65°F is evil. I agree that with wind even -20°C is a lot worse than a -40°C calm weather. Can't say if it is worse than -54°C though. You need to have quite a wind to make it worse than that. You might have different standards for "moderate breeze" than I have.

Ad van der Meer | 04. November 2010

Let's wait and see how the prototypes do in the freezing cells. Anything under 0°C is cold for me, but I assume Tesla engineers will come up with a car suitable for 99% of this earth's weather.

Andyro | 05. November 2010

From Tesla - but by email, I trust they will not mind if I share this:

..."Again, it is hard to give you exact examples about the Model S since it is two years away, but I can let you know how the Roadster is performing in the cold. We actually just sold our first car 200 km north of the Arctic circle in Norway! The salt on the roads has not been an issue, as the Model S is made out of aluminum (the Roadster frame also is aluminum, though the body is carbon fiber). Neither of these materials rusts and are very resistant to corrosion. A heated garage is not necessary, as the battery on the car is kept warm when it is plugged in (which most customers do anyway every night). The door handles on the car are electric (as opposed to mechanical), so freezing has not been a problem on them. We do offer snow tires sets and our traction control system is incredibly advanced and helps the car perform well in adverse conditions."

Mark Petersen | 07. November 2010

hmm they dont use salt that high up north, as the temperature has to be close to 0°C to work

Timo | 08. November 2010

That's only at winter. In spring and in autumn there are temperatures close to 0°C. At summer it is way above melting point, so no need to use salt then either.

Runar | 08. November 2010

Oh, they have started using salt on the roads up north in norway also. It doesnt change from above freezing to -20C in a day.;-)

I live in Alta, 69degrees north and they do salt the roads regulary when weather permits.

Andyro | 23. November 2010

Above link is battery life vs. temperature - and why Tesla has invested in better cooling technology than Nissan. My question would be, in colder climates, would one not expect to see longer battery life? Instead of 7-10 years in California, extrapolate from the chart linked above (cooling system notwithstanding - an extra battery load btw) - could we see an extra 4-7 years of battery life?

Andyro | 23. November 2010

@Ad van der Meer: Don't forget occupants contribute to internal temperature gains. Just sitting there one body produces about 100W just sitting there. Add 3 more occupants and your car is heated! Condensate is usally more of a problem up here, defogging a car before getting going... it would be great if Tesla built-in an electric resistance heater that only came on when the car was plugged in - akin to block heaters in a way. It would be great to have the car start a de-icing and defogging routine at 7am, just in time to have a nicely warmed, thawed and condensate free interior before getting on the road. Adding a removable dessicant filter might help reduce 'relatively' moist cabin air - something you just don't need in an ICE car as the cabin becomes the defacto heat dump and you just blast the interior until the temp is high enough the RH is not an issue. If the car was designed to lose less heat than an ICE car (ie. filling out body components with flame-retardant PU foam) it would both increase body stiffness and reduce cooling and heating system loads. But I am just thinking out loud here...

Can Eng | 23. November 2010


Filling out the body panels with foam would also contribute to a quieter interior due to the sound absorption of the foam. In addition, I would also like to see a small resistance heater for the interior of the cabin to keep the car warm when plugged in.

bhp | 23. November 2010

@ Timo:

i saw the link:

that cell is 90 grams, as far as i know for 300 miles version they are using 8000 cells means 90 garms x 8000 cells = 720 Kg on top of that around 150 Kg of casing and cooling system means around 900 Kg.

How is that possible that a car company comes up with 1 ton of battery pack ?

Moreover boston power on cell is 4.4 Ah x 3.7 Volt = 16.28 watt-hr !

8000 cells x 16.28 watt-hr = 130.240 KWh battery pack !!!!!!!!!!!
as far as i know they are using 85 Kwh battery pack for 300 miles.

qwk | 24. November 2010

Old news. This is what we know about the model S battery.

It certainly does not weigh a ton.

bhp | 24. November 2010


thanks qwk for that update

WattTheHell | 24. November 2010

Thanks Andyro for the info. In the message from Tesla, they mention: "A heated garage is not necessary, as the battery on the car is kept warm when it is plugged in (which most customers do anyway every night)".

Sure, I understand this. If the car is plugged in, there is no problem.

But what if it's not plugged in and stays outside of a garage overnight -or- it's parked for 12 hours during daytime, unplugged in an office parking lot and the temperature in both scenarios is cold (-20 or -30 Celcius)?

Will the onboard battery heating system be able to maintain the battery temperature to an acceptable level solely using the power of the batteries themselves?

Timo | 24. November 2010

Yes, with one caveat. If the battery is near empty, then heating it can drain it to empty and after that pack freezes. I don't know the temperature limits of the Roadster batteries, but I think -20 is not enough to actually damage them, they just practically shut down at that cold. -30 might be too cold. Both cases battery liquid cooling system might freeze too, and if that happens then there is quite certain damage somewhere.

AFAIK battery heating doesn't require much power, you probably can leave it outside for a week unplugged if it is full.

WattTheHell | 25. November 2010

Thank you Timo.

Dan5 | 25. November 2010

Just to point out something, I just checked my antifreeze in the garage, it's only good to -27 C- and that's the good stuff. Considering that, I think they are using more or less a standard automotive grade mix of antifreeze.

Andyro | 25. November 2010

@WattTheHell - I can see it now:

Q: AAA Towtruck (or CAA as the case may be) - so you need a boost?
A: Yeah, and then just keep the cables attached and follow me please......

Vawlkus | 26. November 2010

There is a retrofitted Hummer for charging electric cars on the side of the road. It has a generator in the back. :)

You only need a tow truck for an electric car if you've smashed the car against something else. Otherwise, when your battery guage is low, just pull up somewhere and ask if you cna plug in for an hour. Electricity is EVERYWHERE.

cblais | 29. November 2010

I would be really interested to hear what a Tesla representative has to say about all of this. Given how much they have tested the model S (I've seen the short video clips of it driving in the snow), there must be some more "official" word or data that can be released on this subject.

This must be monitored by someone...

Timo | 29. November 2010

@cblais, that was probably Roadster you saw in those videos. Model S doesn't exist yet. Not even prototype, just a mockup showcar.

Brian H | 30. November 2010

Douglas3 made a really interesting post on "cold" over on the Roadster thread:

"... the Tesla seems to handle winter conditions as well as any other car. Due to poor road conditions I originally took my SUV today, but after stopping for gas it wouldn't crank; apparently the battery is getting old and can't handle the cold. I had to get a boost start so I could go home and get the Tesla. Fortunately even with summer tires it easily handled the winter conditions. The traction control works amazingly well on snow and ice.

Along the way I stopped in at Canadian Tire to pick up a new battery for the SUV. Seemed ironic to be hoisting a lead-acid battery into the Tesla's trunk behind the huge Li-Ion battery."

BossSrikanth | 30. Oktober 2011

I live in Bellevue Washington, so the coldest it gets here is about -10 degrees Celsius. More important to me is traction and climbing capability. I live on top of large hill in an already hilly area. When we get five inches of snow with ice underneath, will the car be able to climb a 20-30 degree incline? If not, I am afraid I will have to go with an earth-killing Range Rover.

Mycroft | 30. Oktober 2011

The car has 6 inches of clearance, so as long as you have traction, it'll be able to climb the hill. If you buy it with the 21" wheels, you might want to rotate out to 19" studded snow tires in the Winter if you're worried about traction.

If you don't have storage for your off-season tires, many tire shops provide storage for about $30 a season and free rotation if you bought the snow tires from them.

I live in Lakewood/Tacoma with no hill to worry about, so I'm hoping to go with all-season tires.

Mycroft | 30. Oktober 2011

I just checked against the size 245/35-21, the size of the 21" tires and there doesn't appear to be any all-season sets available for it. So I may be rotating out to Winter tires also. :(

BossSrikanth | 30. Oktober 2011

Thanks @Mycroft, I can pick up a set of winter tyres out here, no problem. Besides, I probably won't buy it in 21 inch wheels anyway. I'm not too much focused on style, just a nice looking full-size sedan, or a nice SUV that I can depend on. And it's nice to find someone who knows how the weather is here. :)

BossSrikanth | 30. Oktober 2011

The latest I have heard about winter testing is that it's gone out (specific locations haven't been given), but I can't find any results. I assume they are still running winter trials.

Brian H | 30. Oktober 2011

All season tires are generally a bad idea. Half-baked performance in both seasons.

Denis Vincent | 30. Oktober 2011

Isn't the objective behind the adjustable Air Suspension going to allow for a significant increase in the Ground Clearance? When the Air suspension in my Audi Allroad is on its highest setting, the vehicle has more clearance then a BMW X5. Paired with Snow Tires, even the worst Whistler Snow conditions are no problem...and we get huge dumps here!

David70 | 01. November 2011

Boss's problem is the 20 - 30 degree incline. If it's really that steep, he'll probably have to use studs.

Timo | 01. November 2011

Even with studs that steep incline can be real problem to 2WD car, no matter how good grip it has in flat plane. Ice polished by non-stud tires at -10C can be really really really slippery.

Good thing with Model S is Tesla traction control which does not allow wheelspin, and very high torque at very low RPM which allows precise control of tire rotation. This probably makes huge difference between usual ICE car and Tesla EV in slippery conditions.

Still, I hope for 4WD version of Model S (preferably a bit smaller hatchback). That would be perfect to me, and I'm guessing quite a few of others here that have already reserved Model S would prefer that too.

Volker.Berlin | 02. November 2011

I agree that on an iced slope 4WD is probably your most reliable option. Given that 4WD is not available for the Model S at this point, it may still be reassuring to know that the Model S has much more weight on the driven wheels than your average RWD sedan. In an ICE sedan setup, the engine and gear box is in front and the rear is comparatively lightweight, which can lead to the "typical" RWD winter behavior that some people are afraid of. The 50:50 front to rear weight distribution of the Model S (plus traction control, of course) should mitigate the issue. I am still curious to drive it in person and see how it behaves on different surfaces and slopes.

There have been a couple of other threads that were discussing cold climate issues and rear wheel drive. Maybe worth reading if your are interested in these issues.

Mycroft | 02. November 2011

If 4-wheel drive is a requirement, then the Model S isn't for you.

Volker.Berlin | 02. November 2011

Mycroft, that's basically true. However, some drivers who have experienced ICEs with RWD in winter may think that 4WD is a requirement even though that may not be true, assuming that the Model S behaves better than an ICE for the reasons stated. Therefore, if somebody is interested in the Model S but turned away by the RWD, he or she should schedule a test drive and then reconsider.

David70 | 02. November 2011

Right. Even without studs I've found that FWD on an ICE with just all season radials is usually adequate as long as snow depth isn't too great. Of course, the Prius also had a form of traction control. OTOH, I rarely encounter 20 degree slopes, let alone 30 degree.