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Are Teslas good in the cold?

Tesla owners are again losing heat in extreme cold as some heat pumps are failing badly

Tesla owners are again losing heat in extremely cold weather as some heat pumps are failing badly.

The problem was thought to be fixed last year, but it is resurging in a big way this year.

The problem was with the newly introduced heat pump.

Tesla claimed to have solved the problem with an over-the-air update, but now a year later, it is resurging in a big way.

Currently, Canada and the north of the US are hitting new record cold temperatures with several regions doing down below -30C (-22F).

As an example, it’s so cold out right now that I just got an alert that one of my security cameras at my house in Shawinigan, Quebec had to shut itself down to protect against the cold:

It’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen and it’s apparently not only affecting cameras.

The forums and social media are full of Tesla owners reporting issues with their heating system, like it was last year.

Again, it appears to only affect owners of newer Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles equipped with a heat pump system

Heat pumps are super-efficient, but they are known to not work as well in extreme cold (around -15C or 5F and below).

Tesla claimed to have solved that with a dual loop system, but it appears that something else is failing.

Several owners are reporting being hit with this system alert and completely losing heat in the car (via John Saxon):

This is creating potentially dangerous situations as some Tesla owners can get stuck in remote locations in freezing temperatures without heating.

Several Tesla owners who brought their car into Tesla service centers following the issue were told that the automaker is aware of the problem and it is working on a software fix.

However, it looks like it might need more than a software fix.

Jimmy Yeung, a Model Y owner from Toronto, had the same issue happen in his Model Y and the service center had to replace the AC compressor and the supermanifold “Octovalve” part of the heat pump system.

He shared the service bill on Facebook that showed that it would have cost over $5,000 CAD ($4,000 USD) if the work wasn’t done under warranty:

  • Now this might be more of an extreme case, and if the problem is caught sooner and fixed by a software update it could potentially prevent a full replacement.

    Tesla told several owners of Model 3 and Model Y vehicles with heat pumps experiencing issues with heating that the problem could be as simple as ice affecting the front air intake near the windshield, which triggers an error in the heat pump sensor.

    The company recommends using pre-heating to thaw the air intake and/or manually removing the ice.

    Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously called the Model 3 and Model Y heat pump system “some of the best engineering he has seen in a while“.

    It looks like it still might need some work.

    Electrek’s Take

    It’s disappointing that this issue is surfacing a year later when we thought it was fixed.

    For owners Model 3 and Model Y vehicles with heat pumps in cold weather regions, you should really take this into consideration when going on longer road trips as there’s a real danger in being stuck somewhere without heat.

    As for the fix, Tesla can hopefully find something soon, and for its own sake, I hope it’s not what happened to Yeung because it’s going to get costly fast, as I wouldn’t be surprised if this issue affects thousands of vehicles.

    And for EV naysayers, don’t be too quick to rejoice because, at the very least, those Tesla vehicles are driveable albeit cold.

    At these temperatures, many combustion engine vehicles have issues starting. Also, the issue is limited to Tesla vehicles with heat pump.

    My 2018 Model 3, which doesn’t have a heat pump, started just fine and had heat this morning at -20C. That’s according to my friend who is driving my car while I’m in Mexico though (haha).

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    How Much Worse Is A Tesla Model 3’s Range Over 2,000 Miles In The Winter?


    There’s a common refrain among EV skeptics that cold temperatures will wreck havoc on the car’s range. Engineering Explained’s Jason Fenske has taken his Tesla Model 3 on two 2,000 mile road trips to find out how much impact winter weather will have on it.

    The answer is that it does make a difference, but not as much as you might think. Yes, batteries operate most efficiently within a specific temperature band, and heating the cabin (especially in older Teslas) takes a lot of energy. But the results are comparable to ICE-powered cars.

    Fenske actually drove his Tesla 2,500 miles in the winter, but is primarily interested in the 2,000-mile section that he also drove in the summer. Whereas in warmer weather he averaged 285-watt hours per mile, in the cold he averaged 338-watt hours per mile.

    That’s a difference of a little less than 20% and was reflected in his Tesla’s range estimates dropping from 250 miles to 212 miles. That’s much less than previous studies that have found results of around a 40% drop. Admittedly, this is a single test, but even during the coldest, least efficient part of this drive, Fenske’s Tesla only performed 20% worse than the least efficient part of his summer drive.

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    Crucially, this lines up pretty well with how much less efficient internal combustion cars are during the winter. According to, gas-powered cars are about 15% less fuel-efficient at 20°F than they would be at 77°F.

    Bearing in mind that Fenske was driving at temperatures as low as 0°F and that one of the major purported advantages of the gas engine’s inefficiency is its waste heat, that’s an impressive result.

    There’s an interesting Technology Connections video about the dangers of “but sometimes” lines of argumentation that claims inefficient systems sometimes have accidental advantages, which I think applies here. Yes, electric cars sometimes have to provide heat in a way that’s less efficient than gas-powered cars, but only sometimes.

    Moreover, even when that happens, they’re still much more efficient overall than internal combustion engined cars. According to Fenske, he used the equivalent of just 20 gallons of gas, averaging 100 MPGe.

    For those who are more concerned about charging time than efficiency, Fenske spent the same amount of time charging during both summer and winter. That was, though, helped by his charging strategy. By charging more often, from lower battery levels, he was able to spend less time than he would have otherwise had.

    As everyone who’s charged an electronic device, like a cellphone or a laptop, knows, that’s because the fuller a battery gets, the longer it takes to charge. That’s why you see automakers quoting short charging times to 80%, whereas topping them up takes considerably longer. So charging less more frequently actually cuts down on charging time, though it does add some distance while you get on and off the highway.

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