Cold Weather Operation

Cold Weather Operation

I really want to buy a Tesla. However, living in Canada means that winter driving is brutal. Not only do we need snow tires, but our roads are covered with corrosive salt. I have my eye on an all wheel drive Model X because it will be superior in snow to the rear wheel drive Model S.

What I would really like to know is how susceptible Teslas will be to cold weather conditions, from a driving perspective and from the perspective of corrosion and of course battery life and range issues that may be affected by low temperatures. I wish that our climate was the same as Fremont's but it isn't!

It would be great to have some analysis from Tesla on these issues. I know that the cars use aluminum extensively, but are there exposed parts that will be subject to corrosion? Battery life and range issues will also be key in determining if a Tesla is realistic for we who live in the Great White North.

Brian H | 20 augustus 2012

The less protected and "robust" Roadsters seem to have survived quite well in Norway, the EU Tesla hotspot.

Timo | 20 augustus 2012

Cold itself is not problem to Tesla cars (battery has A/C of its own), but winter road conditions probably affect range quite a bit. Good snow/ice tires are not good low rolling resistance tires.

For battery life, cold weather probably extends that, it's the heat that kills Li-ion not cold (unless it gets really cold and it is not plugged in/doesn't have power to run A/C).

Volker.Berlin | 21 augustus 2012

I don't have definitive answers from Tesla, but you may want to read some of the discussions that have dealt with these issues in the forums. Some of my all-time favorite threads are among them, lots of interesting information and perspective:

"Underbelly protection from salt"

"AWD Model S"

"Rear wheel drive"

"Things I would like (coming from someone who lives where it snows)"

"Model S Performance in Winter (Canada)?"

"Batteries in cold weather"

"Winter Climates and the Model S"

Alan Pratt | 21 augustus 2012

Wow! Thanks Volker. Really informative.

Volker.Berlin | 21 augustus 2012

You're welcome. Here's another one (w/ tongue in cheek):

"My ICE car sucks in cold weather" (private*)

* "private" means that the topic is only visible to logged-in reservation holders and owners, as opposed to "public".

Alan Pratt | 21 augustus 2012

Thanks but I thing that spending $5000 to see the tongue in cheek entry is a bit too much until I am sure I want to buy a car! Thanks again!

Volker.Berlin | 21 augustus 2012

Alan Pratt, I do not agree. Spending $5k is well worth it, if only because you get to test-drive sooner... :-) And BTW, it's not "spending" by any stretch: Those $5k are fully refundable in the unlikely event that you should come to the conclusion you really don't want to own a Model S.

peter | 28 augustus 2012

The problem in cold weather is the electric heating. It takes a lot of energy from the battery.
Better is a heat pump that can both warm and cool.
Some burning heater based on oil/gas/wood pellets coult also be a solution because it is close to 100% energy efficient.

Brian H | 28 augustus 2012

For heat gen, any solid or liq. fuel is. The point of electric is to not carry/process any.

Volker.Berlin | 29 augustus 2012

peter, the idea of a gasoline powered auxiliary heater has been discussed here and almost unanimously dismissed:

psirnes | 23 september 2012

The user's manual

p 25 states: Do not expose Model S to ambient temperatures above 140° F (60° C) or below -22° F (-30° C) for more than 24 hours at a time.

There are many areas here i Norway where temperature lower then this may last for several days. Does anyone know if this warning also applies to a power-connected Model S?

Timo | 24 september 2012

It doesn't. Model S has AC for it's battery and as long as it is plugged in it keeps the battery from freezing.

klauss | 29 september 2012

"Model S will do fine at least 24 hours in as low as -29 centigrades without be plugged in. Colder than -29 centigrades, you need to have the car plugged in."
-English summary of this Norwegian answer I got when asking
From: Christoffer Hauge Rortveit
Date: 2012/8/21
Når det gjelder kulde har vi sagt at bilen kan stå helt fint uten lading i opp til -29 Celsius i over et døgn.
Over 29 Celsius bør bilen være tilkoblet en ladestasjon ja J
Kind Regards,
Christoffer H. Rortveit | European Product Specialist

Mayhemm | 9 november 2012

Asking that the car be plugged in for really cold temps is not that outrageous.

I make a habit of plugging in my ICE vehicles once the temps are regularly below about -15C.

This is assuming, of course, that the UMC can also withstand the cold and continue operating.

Timo | 10 november 2012

UMC? That's new acronym for me, can't figure out what that means. Acronym dictionary lists 36 possibilities, but nothing feels right for this case.

hmmm...universal mobile connector? Good question. Does anybody have experience with that in really cold climates?

If the temperature gets really cold it would be good to plug even ICE cars in for block heaters so that oils don't freeze.

Brian H | 10 november 2012
Universal Mobile Charger

jerry3 | 10 november 2012


The oils don't actually freeze, they just get really thick. Keeping any car plugged in when the weather is cold is generally a good thing, although in an ICE car, if it's above -15C there is no advantage to having it plugged in for more than an hour before it's driven. (This has been studied quite a bit in the Prius forums because the Prius has enough instrumentation to really show the effects of temperature on fuel economy.)

Timo | 11 november 2012

I know oils don't really freeze, but at -30C it's pretty thick indeed. I once drove to school at nearly -40C without remembering to put block heater on first, it felt like even tires had flat spot on them at the spot which was against the ground until they warmed up a bit. Everything felt stiff. Suspension, steering, seat cushions, everything. I was really surprised that car started in first place.

jerry3 | 11 november 2012


Been there, done that. Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Grand Prairie--all those places.

Brian H | 11 november 2012

You did serious harm to your pistons. They were operating un-lubricated until the oil got warm. Not just a matter of "clunky wheels".

Timo | 11 november 2012

With that car it didn't matter. School -> cheapest thing in four wheels you can find. I drove it kind of rough "who cares" attitude in places you would never take Model S. Surprisingly car didn't mind much. You really can't do that with modern cars.

Howard2013 | 31 oktober 2013

A friend lives in Manitoba he has a signature MODEL S the cold weather knocks off about 10%. So its not that bad.

Brian H | 31 oktober 2013

↑SPAM Please flag

Brian H | 31 oktober 2013

lita is the spam, not Howie!

Timo | 1 november 2013

Flagged. Near-comprehensible language from that bot.

Brian H | 1 november 2013

There will be some(one(s)) for whom the 100K isn't a big deal who will test that out on an MS. With a big audience watching the telemetry at HQ. Would not be at all surrounded if it's already been "tested to destruction" by an engineer or two!

frmercado | 1 november 2013

Get Nokians. They make any car good on the snow. The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7 will get you anywhere, the 8 is out already, though I don't think it's available in America yet, as far as I know only Europe, but maybe Canada, being such a great market for winter tires, has them already.

Brian H | 1 november 2013