Climate/Heating System in Cold Weather

Climate/Heating System in Cold Weather


Being that a Tesla "store" rep introduced me that the Model S uses inverter coolant (brilliant!) as the heat source for the vehicle instead of electric heat, is there any experience with the heating system in the Model S? I live in a cold climate and there will be plenty of times where the car will cold soak outside un-plugged. How long does it take to feel the heating system to heat up the cabin? Does it ever really reach desired temperatures (unlike the Volt)? And does this car have a feature where if plugged in it will use outside power to get the cabin to desired temperature?

Two, I wish this forum had a search functionality so I can see if my questions have been previously answered.

Now I would like to introduce myself as new and possible prospect buyer to the Tesla brand. Live in NY and frequently travel to VT during the winter. I love everything Tesla stands for and really really hope the company succeeds.

Thank you

michiganmodels | 25 novembre 2012

@Mark - I live in MIchigan. I've had my Model S for over 3 weeks. From experience, the cabin temperature warms up remarkably well in cold climates. When temperatures were 30F (or below), my Model S took approximately one minute to heat up the cabin temperature to 70F. Heating the battery to its optimal temperature and maintaining the cabin temperature does require approximately 7% of the battery's range/capacity (again at 30F or below).

The Model S will have an iPhone/Android app that will allow you to set the cabin temperature remotely.

The Model S is unlike the Volt, Leaf or any other EV or PEV in terms of its HVAC system. That is the Model S is extraordinarily efficient at warming the cabin relative to it's EV/PEV counterparts (and yes, it does actually reach desired temperatures).

Depending on how far your commute is to VT, you should be fine.

Unfortunately, there is not a useful search function on this forum.

If you have not discovered it yet, is another great forum/Tesla resource.

Hope this helps!

Ohms.Law | 25 novembre 2012

Welcome to the Model S forum Mark. You will likely find the answers you seek by following what goes on here.

Regarding the lack of a search function, we are all painfully aware. One of our active participants is Volker.Berlin who is quite competent in helping us find that which we are looking for. However we, his friends, have also incorporated his search engine on a website: You'll find it very helpful.

Brian H | 26 novembre 2012

Heh. It's a standard option, for all search engines on all sites. Include the string ' site:URL/xxxsubsite ' in your query, and that restricts the hits you get. (URL/substring is for this one, e.g.)

Vexar | 26 novembre 2012

My wife got a chance to do a test drive in Chicago this past week. It was quite cool and windy, but warmed up well in the car. What's more, it did so without blowing around a lot of air, either (and I sat in back). I suspect there is considerable efficiency in its design. The seat warmers took 20 seconds before you could feel them (tested this in the demo center, not test drive).
If my delivery is occurring in Jan-Feb in Minnesota, as the forums suggest, I will record my experience at the TMC forums. I expect that the cabin will warm up in a fraction of the time in brutal, Minnesota cold. They did winter testing in Baudette, MN, so I have reasons for my expectations.
Also, while I'm at it, at a height of close to 6', I had no issues with head room in the back seat.
It sure was fun to watch all the people notice the car roll by them and turn themselves completely around to gawk. It made me wonder if one of the Tesla Motors patents was a grin.

Brian H | 26 novembre 2012

Yes indeed, the Tesla Grin has been copyrighted and registered as an Industrial Design since the Roadster hit the road. <:D

Kevin Glassman | 29 novembre 2012

I live in NY and travel to VT frequently. Just completed my first drive on one charge of 220 miles each way. Range is definitely an issue here, as the 265 mile max range on full charge with the 85 KW battery will just get you to southern Vermont with no real battery life to spare. This is driving at 50-55 MPH, with mostly cruise control on where ever feasible. As for heat in the cabin, it works well, but if you increase the temp setting on the dash, it'll definitely decrease your range further. I averaged 351 wh/mile on each leg of my trip, driving VERY conservatively. Heating the interior is a real drain on the battery range, although using seat heaters (Front only available) is more efficient. Good luck to those sitting in back.

markfur | 2 décembre 2012

michiganmodels - thanks for the information. This is very helpful in alleviating one of my main fears for the winter drive. I'm really proud that Tesla seeming made a no sacrifice vehicle.

Terry and Kevin - thanks for your range update. Sounds like trips to VT is really pushing it. But I was told Tesla is going to be putting up super charge station on the east coast with one going up at Exit 42 on I95 is what a local store rep has told me. Hopefully they get at least one on the route to VT very soon.

DTsea | 2 décembre 2012

Based on these comments sounds like it is better than a gas car. Even our Volvo takes longer than a minute for the engine to get warm enough for cabin heat, and that is from Sweden! The seat heat sounds great too- much more current available than an ice car with jute 12V battery.

Personally I like the car cold (60 or lower) and seat heat, so the S will be perfect for me.

Kevin Glassman | 2 décembre 2012

I'm told that a rapid charging station will be up and running in the New Milford area of CT this month, along I-95. May help with the Vermont commutes, but will add distance to the trip. At the moment, there is no way to recharge quickly anywhere from NY to Vermont if you're West of I-91. Only J-1772 recharging, and slow at that, along the way. I've also been told of plans to open a Rapid recharging station somewhere along the NYS Thruway or Northway near Albany, but no estimate of when yet, for those traveling between Canada and the lower East Coast Cities. Downloading "Recargo", "Plugshare", "ChargePoint" or CarStations Apps will help you locate stations along any route, but the info with all these apps is not complete. Check these points out when you don't really need them first.
Would also recommend getting an account set up with ChargePoint now, $25.00 activation fee, as many of these stations require an access card to "Unlock" these charging points, even if they are "No fee" station.

Brian H | 2 décembre 2012

Alright, who's going to make a fully documented mid-winter trip between VT. and the North Left Coast first? (No fair following the coastline.) C'mon; it'll be fun, promise! >:)

pilotech | 4 décembre 2012

Just come back from a test-drive of 15 minutes in Oslo Norway. Winter day, -11C (12F), Sunny. Dry roads but slightly slippery due to conditions. Black performance with 5 people in the car.

The car had done 135km of demo driving that morning when we finished. Range estimated 185km left. Heating on at 21,5C (70,5F) in the car as it had been the last 3,5h. Very comfortable cabin temp. The Tesla rep said seat heat had been used a lot too in the morning. I think this is a very decent range given the demo-drive and climate conditions.

Grip/Traction control:
It was fitted with winter tires 19´(Pirelli I think), not studded. Easy to drive smooth, but "pedal to the metal" was absolutely out of the question. The car "wiggled" due to TC if pushed a little too fast on the motorway. Not very aggressive, easy to handle, but you definitely must remember HP/Torque when the next real winterday comes along.

Brian H | 4 décembre 2012

Sounds like what we Canucks call "black ice" weather: frozen condensation invisibly coats the road. Very nasty.

Timo | 4 décembre 2012

Same words here, but in Finnish. Probably everywhere, because it just looks black (or looks moist, not icy).

TonyF | 8 décembre 2012

For others who have been driving in cold weather, do you feel that it is pretty easy (and comfortable) to maintain a sub 400 wh/mi. energy usage? That was really good information from Terry and Kevin about energy usage in cold weather. The reason I am asking this is that I plan to take a trip from Philadelphia PA to Springfield MA 265 mi. the week after Christmas. I will need one recharge stop in New York. But I didn't know what kind of energy usage to expect (wh/mi), so the info posted here on averaging 350 wh/mi. is very helpful. Are there any other cold weather drivers who are willing to share their energy usage and type of driving?

My car is in Transit from CA and I expect to take delivery the week before Christmas, but since I don't have it yet, I cannot get a feel for what I can do for true cold weather energy usage.

For planning purposes, If I can stay in the range of between 350 and 400 wh/mi, I will be nearly drained but with about 20 miles to spare when I arrive in Springfield. Is that too tight? I am planning on a 3-hour stop at a level 2 charger (gaining me about 60 miles).

Brian H | 8 décembre 2012

If you're getting close but running short -- slow down!

cmlaff | 9 décembre 2012

I can hardly complain about cold living in San Diego, but I have had reason to use the heater and noticed that the driver's side floor heater blows nothing. The passenger side is fine. Anybody else notice this? Test each
side with a bare hand, when parked of course. Maybe it's just mine?

pbrulott | 9 décembre 2012

What's killing in cold weather is the dual effect of air density and heating.

If you use the Go Electric simulator, you will notice that when you drop the temperature from 70 to 50, you loose around 2% range by 10 degrees F. And the colder it is, the more heating is consumed and you could loose between 8% up to 15% range.

At 32, you loose close to 20% in range vs 70... quite noticeable!

Wonder why TM didn't show the figures below 32 in their simulator. We'll see soone from the real life -10 to 10F driving

Timo | 9 décembre 2012

Probably because below 32F you get snow, and snow is unpredictable condition for loss considerations. Just a modest amount of loose snow can increase rolling resistance a lot, OTOH if it is just ice then rolling resistance doesn't change much.

Also when you get below freezing you would need to count winter tires into equation.

Losses from heating should not be completely linear with outside temperatures. Cabin heater, once you get to tolerable temperatures, should not need to work very hard no matter how cold it is outside. That big heated mass below your feets (batteries) should make car floor nice and warm even in coldest environments.

It's a difference between heating the cabin and maintaining the heat. Maintaining doesn't eat much energy.

Theresa | 9 décembre 2012


Having lived in cold climates my entire life I can say that I don't believe you have a good feel for temps below zero. At those temps when driving at highway speeds you can feel the cold sucking the heat out of the vehicle. So I would not assume that keeping the car at a comfortable temperature is not a significant energy drain. I would agree that the batteries beneath your feet (although not heated enough to make a difference) will be an insulator between the cold and the floor.

pilotSteve | 9 décembre 2012

You could consider (with 4.0 software) putting the car into "Range Driving Mode" which specifically address climate: it uses the seat heaters (more? always?) to maintain comfort while heating the cabin air less.

I found, as have others, that the S is well insulated and if you start out in a warm garage and use Range Driving you will probably be comfortable. The big issue I've found is likely to be window fogging so I would also carry a micro fiber towel and clean the windows well before starting the trip.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Timo | 9 décembre 2012

@Theresa, I live in Finland. Would -35C be enough to know what cold feels like? Maybe I have just driven cars with good heaters then.

Brian H | 9 décembre 2012

Could be that cars marketed in Finland are better insulated. It may be also that Nordamericanos are more sensitive to "heat sucking"! As well, heat in a car (done well) is comparatively cheap and easy; waste energy is just heat anyway, so it's a matter of capturing enough of it an redirecting it. Cooling is tougher.

Theresa | 9 décembre 2012

Okay Timo, you win. I normally only get to -20 to -30 F so you are a bit colder.

Brian, I agree that in an ICE there is waste heat but would you let the rest of us know where the waste heat would be coming from in the Model S?

I do agree that many people who don't live in cold climates are much more sensitive to cold than those who live in it all the time. I have found that as I get older and now work indoors that my tolerance has gone down. I used to work outside all winter and got used to it. When the temps raised to 30F I could wear short sleeve shirts and no jacket and be quite comfortable. Definitely wouldn't feel that way now.

Brian H | 9 décembre 2012

Since the batteries are cooled as they feed power, that heat is either dumped or recycled. Depends how sophisticated the heat pump system is. (A heat pump uses power to move fluids, and the fluids absorb and dump heat, so efficiencies over an apparent 100% can be achieved compared to straight resistance heaters.)

shs | 9 décembre 2012

Some of the cabin heating comes from extracting heat from the batteries, but that may not be enough in really cold weather. A heat pump pumps “heat”. In a car, when used for air conditioning, it pumps heat from the cabin and puts that heat into the atmosphere through the front radiator. A heat pump can also run the other way and extract heat from the radiator and put in into the cabin and at much greater efficiency than if that same heat was generated via resistance heating. Our home has a geothermal heat pump and for every kW of electricity we use “pumping heat” we get 6 kWs of heat (measured twice) that is then used for radiant floor heating. In our case we use a pond as the heat source/sink and that is more efficient than air, but I would hope that the Model S also uses the air conditioning heat pump for supplemental cabin heating, as that would be clearly more efficient than resistance heating.

Timo | 9 décembre 2012

@Theresa, for fairness sake I have to say that temperatures exceeding -20C are rare here at coastal southern Finland. We get few days every year that are colder than that though. We also get over +30C temperatures for few days every year. Inland temperatures tend to be slightly more extreme and Northern Finland (Lapland) has got -51.5C temperature record (1999). Southern inland highest temperature was +37.2C (2010). Kind of crazy swing between really cold and really hot during a year, temperature difference between coldest day and hottest day can exceed 60C.

I did my military service in place which gets over -40C regularly (but with military gear it wasn't that big deal, and you learn few survival tricks).

Back to topic: Someone posted recently that Model S uses excess heat from drivetrain to heat cabin, so not only batteries but also motor and PEM are in the mix. Though when it gets really cold I'm not sure Model S can dump any heat from them to cabin (more like needs more heat to prevent them from freezing), so cabin would require resistive heater to keep it warm.

I don't know if you can turn outside air off completely with Model S (circulate inside air only) or does Model S have blinds for radiators like may cars here do (NNIC?).

murraypetera | 9 décembre 2012

You can Stop at the NJ store or and Westchester store to get 70 amp charge rates for free.. In parking deck near Nordstrom's.

olanmills | 9 décembre 2012

This guy in Oslo said the heater was good at -12 C:

Timo | 9 décembre 2012

Heater probably is good, problem is that we don't know how much that affects range. If anybody from Norway tests could post Wh usage when heater is on and cabin is already warm it would help quite a lot.

HaroldS | 10 décembre 2012

With respect to energy draw for the heating system, I drove in -15C to -20C temperatures for hours last week, at 55MPH, at night. The terrain was mostly level. Watching the energy graph (I don't have V4.0 yet), the Wh/M increased about 100Wh/M (from about 320 to about 420) every time I switched the heater on.

As an aside, when first driving off after overnight charging in these temps, the Wh/M spiked from the mid 300s to over 1100 for a few minutes and the Projected Range dropped about 60 miles (it recovered later in the drive).

I assume that the spike is because the battery pack was being heated. If that is correct then I would infer that the pack was not being kept warm while the car was plugged in, after the charge was completed. That doesn't seem right, tho, if we really do have thermal management of the pack -- seems that the temp would need to be managed whether or not the car is driving.

Timo | 10 décembre 2012

100Wh/mile at 55mph is 5.5kW. Kind of high power draw, but not impossible high.

Roadster manual says that you should plug in the car above 20C temperatures, charging or not charging, so Roadster at least does some temperature management without charging. If Model S doesn't do same I'm very surprised. It might be that it just let the battery temperature to drop very low, but not at damaging temperatures (Li-ion batteries like cold, it prolongs their life, but cold batteries performance is weak).

Jpulickal | 16 décembre 2015

Just wanted to check anyone else experience this issue. I have a model S for the last 15 months. The seat warmers works fine. When you turn the cabin heater ON in the morning, there is unusual smell(something like if you stand in a room with very old electronic components). I took the car to Tesla three times to check it out and they didn't find anything. I escalated it and and another apt is in next month. The smell goes away or I get used to it after some time and it gives me a head ache everyday while going to work!!!I have two Toyotas and one Honda and they all do fine. Anyone else experience this??? I only used the heating in my car 10-15 times during last year due to this...using the seat warmer so no smell!!!!

wolfpv | 5 Janvier 2016

I have experienced the same "old electric heater" smell when I crank up the heater - which I rarely do. I haven't looked into it any further, though.

I was searching the forums because I just discovered that my heater and seat heater eat power, and I was curious if others noted it. It's finally cold in CA, and it turns out that I get about 30-50 wh/m reduction when the heaters are cranked up.