Can Tesla’s Batteries Beat The Cold?

tesla-winterFor a few years, Tesla has battled the question “Does the car’s battery withstand cold temperatures?” Recently, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk vehemently denied any problems with the vehicle. Here is a closer look at some of the assertions regarding how the battery performs in cold weather.


In the beginning of 2013, “The New York Times” ran an article about the troubles with a Tesla vehicle. Writer John M. Broder described his rough ride with the Model S car from Washington D.C. to Connecticut in the middle of winter. The trip should have been easy since the car has an estimated 265 mile range.


As the trip progressed, Broder noticed that the range was dropping fast. After one successful recharge, the battery’s range quality lowered by 85 miles. Broder decided to follow the range maximization guidelines set forth by Tesla. This included lowering the heat inside the cabin and slowing down. Broder began to freeze from the 30-degree temperatures outside and was being passed by almost every vehicle on the road. Eventually, Broder reached his destination.


The next day, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees and the range dropped almost 70 miles. After contracting Tesla, Broder was informed that the battery needed to be “conditioned” in order to restore the lost energy. In other words, Broder has to sit in the car for 30 minutes with the heat on low. To no avail, the range was still extremely low.


J B Straubel, Tesla’s chief technology officer explained the problem away by stating that the charging stations being used by Broder were at the extreme limits of the Model S’s real world range. Also, the cold weather may have shaved off another 10 percent of the power. Running the heat inside of the vehicle also drained energy. He stated that “some range-related software problems still needed to be worked out.”


In response to this article, a Tesla CEO issued a tweet on Twitter that attacked Broder and called the whole article fake. He suggested that the problems were with the driver and not the car. Musk totally stands behind the vehicle. However, two years earlier, he agreed that there was a 20 percent drop in range during cold temperatures.


In the end, much skepticism still exists surrounding how well Tesla’s battery performs in cold weather. If both Musk and Broder are being honest, the car should be able to make a long trip. If the problems occurred because of common mistakes, something should be done to further educate drivers who will be using the vehicle. The Tesla Model S cannot be all bad or it would not be the best selling car in Norway, a place with extreme winters.