Why Cold Weather Kills a Tesla – and Every Other EV on the Market

Elon Musk looking pensive
Slaven Vlasic /Getty

Tesla owners in Chicago recently faced a significant issue when their vehicles were left dead, completely unable to charge in the frigid subzero temperatures, highlighting the fact that cold weather is a major Achilles’ heel for electric vehicles (EVs).

CBS News reports that electric vehicles, including popular models like the Tesla lineup of EVs, are experiencing massive performance drops in this year’s cold weather conditions. This issue was recently highlighted as Tesla owners in Chicago found their vehicles taking significantly longer to charge (if they could be charged at all), and some Tesla charging stations were reportedly not functioning correctly​​. These incidents have raised questions about the reliability of EVs in extreme weather conditions, especially considering their growing popularity, partly fueled by incentives like a $7,500 federal tax credit​​. The reasons for these ongoing cold weather problems stem from the battery systems at the heart of every EV.

Dead Tesla pushed in frigid Chicago temps

Dead Tesla pushed in frigid Chicago temps (Fox 32 Chicago/YouTube)

The core problem lies in the fact that EVs are inherently less efficient in cold weather. Research has shown that EVs can lose up to 30 percent efficiency on average, impacting their driving range significantly. For instance, an EV with a range of 200 to 215 miles might only achieve 150 to 175 miles in cold conditions​​. Scott Case, the co-founder and CEO of battery research firm Recurrent notes that EVs “definitely lose some of their driving range in extreme cold.” This efficiency drop is attributed to the chemical and physical reactions inside an EV’s battery, which require more time in the cold, thereby reducing the power available to the vehicle.

“If you go skiing with your iPhone, you might notice that the battery will burn through more quickly, so halfway through the day it might run out of juice, where normally it would last all day,” Case said.

To understand what this limited range looks like in action, consider the case of siblings that had to stop six times in one day to charge their Tesla, as reported by Breitbart News in January 2023:

“We ended up having to stop every one to one and a half hours to charge for an hour, then an hour and a half, then two hours,” Xavier told the outlet.

“So beyond the lost time, it also got to the point it was between $25 and $30 to recharge. Just in one day, we stopped six times to charge at that cost,” he added.

When the siblings called Hertz to complain about the issues they were experiencing, the agent told them that all their calls that day were Tesla complaints.

In a statement to Insider, Hertz acknowledged that the cold weather was possibly a contributing factor to the battery draining faster than usual.

Another issue is the heating systems used in EVs. Most rely on supplemental heaters, often resistive heaters, which are less efficient in extremely low temperatures. Newer EV models may include heat pumps, which are more effective in such conditions​​. EVs can also take longer to charge in cold weather because most EV batteries are designed to charge slower as the temperature drops. This is a protective measure to preserve battery health, but it reduces the vehicle’s range as the battery needs to expend energy to heat itself up before charging efficiently​​.

According to Recurrent’s Case, while cold weather reduces range on individual trips, it doesn’t adversely affect the overall battery life​​. However, even in optimal conditions, some EVs have been found to fall short of their advertised ranges by as much as 50 miles, and a study suggests that EVs are generally less reliable than gas-powered cars​​.

To add insult to injury, some Tesla owners find themselves unable to open their car doors in frigid temps and icy conditions thanks to Elon Musk’s unique door handle design. As Breitbart News previously reported:

The Daily Mail reports that numerous Tesla owners have reported being unable to access their vehicles due to frozen door handles during a severe winter storm in Canada and the United States. Rachel Modestino, a meteorologist from Ontario, experienced this issue firsthand on December 23 when temperatures reached a low of 5º F and her car’s door latch failed to function

Modestino’s situation gained significant attention on social media, as a video she posted of her struggle with the frozen door handle has garnered over 10.1 million views on Twitter. In the tweet accompanying the video, Modestino quipped, “Bet ya didn’t think of ice in the Tesla design.” The video shows the Tesla partially covered in ice, highlighting the severity of the winter storm.

Read more at CBS News here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship.


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