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Tesla Model 3 Owners Vent About Polar Vortex Affecting Cars (bloomberg.com)
34 points by tomcam 81 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

Having owned a BMW 3 series and a Tesla Model S. The problems are pretty much the same, in very cold weather.

Once in my BMW, the gas plug froze stock, os i Couldnt get gas.

The biggest difference, is that i can remotely start the AC/Defrost the Tesla, with my phone. I do that 10 mins before i Drive, and everything is fine.

Counter anecdote:

I have a Model 3 in New England and I love it. My range is about 30% less than it should be due to the cold but I kind of expected that and I just plan my trips accordingly. Like most M3 owners (I think) 99% of the time I charge at home anyway.

Pre-heating definitely takes it's toll.

The flip side of that is it pre-heats faster than any car I have ever owned. 30F to 70F in 15 minutes. And as a bonus I can pre-heat it in my garage without poisoning myself.

I haven't had the door handle issue. My understanding is it is a lot to do with the fact it is recessed and there is nothing to grab onto to break the ice / plus the ice can get behind the handle. But the window sticking issue... I had an Audi with a frameless window and that happened on it too.

BUT... and this is a big but... I have a garage for my car and the coldest it has gotten this year where I am is -3F (and that was in the middle of the night). Which is nowhere near as cold as the polar vortex temperatures.

Edit: My biggest complaint with it is actually the build quality. The gap between the door and the frame is huge in some places and the exterior paint quality leaves something to be desired. Plus for some odd reason the web browser in the dash sometimes requires a system reboot to work which sounds like no big deal but there are a lot of cool web based "apps" for Tesla cars. But overall, I am extremely happy with my purchase.

i think you'll find that the M3 name is already occupied.

So what is the exact problem?

Batteries - everybody knows that the voltage drops in cold weather. This is of course big issue in the electric cars, but is an issue with a gas cars too. Bellow -20C, you will start to feel that it's harder to start a car, even with rather fresh battery.

Car door handles, what the hell is this problem? You need to lube door handles and door rubber gaskets (sorry if terminology is wrong) for probably every car if you do not want to have _any_ trouble in seriously cold weather. Stickier door handles or door freezing to the car's body is usual occurrence for me every single winter.

It's mostly a problem in as much as people are simply not used to how they are effected. E.g. I grew up in Norway. People cared more about garages or having electric motor warmers than elsewhere to ensure their cars would start. My dad would turn on heating in the garage every morning when he woke up during winter to ensure the car would even start when he was ready for work.

But those are different issues to e.g. losing range faster. It'd taken people a long time to learn what to expect from a gasoline car in cold weather, and a lot of time for manufacturers to minimize the problems as well.

It'll take time for manufacturers to optimize for that different set of challenges, and time for car owners to get used to different considerations.

There have also been reports of the door electronics failing entirely in cold weather. Since the electronics fail, you can't get the door open due to the design requiring electronics to open the door in the first place, so you can't get into the car to turn on the heat to warm the electronics.

> Car door handles, what the hell is this problem?

The design leaves you nothing to grab, like a more traditional car door that can be grasped?

> so you can't get into the car to turn on the heat to warm the electronics.

All Teslas, especially the M3 since it doesn’t even have a traditional key fob(I think they’re going to start selling those for the M3 as well), have remote lock/unlock and remote controlled heating from the app, so that’s a non-issue.

IIRC the remote unlock means the door will open once you pull the handle. It doesn't actually unlatch the door so you could just pull it open. If the electronics are on the fritz, you can't unlatch the door.

With a software revision, the door could actually open with the app.

I think they don't want to do it because they're worried if you open the door with the car in a slope, it could swing into the road or hit another car. The door has no way to close itself too.

The door handles on a Tesla are an issue in normal cold weather already [1] although I am not sure if the model 3 has the same ones as the X. Most cars you can yank the door handle open even if it's iced up.

[1] https://youtu.be/ezqwfha-BZ8?t=498

"Car door handles, what the hell is this problem?"

Teslas have door handles that work differently from ordinary cars, and that seems to cause problems with freezing weather. Different models have different mechanisms, but the root cause seems to be the desire to have the handles lie flush for the sake of appearances.

Actually I think it has less to do with appearance and more to do with efficiency as every mm counts in an electric car drag coefficient.

Priuses don't have this problem.

Prius handles only affect MPG, which is a number people care less about than miles of range.

I don't follow — MPG and range have a direct, linear relation. They're also one of the most aerodynamic, low drag coefficient vehicles on the market.

This table on wikipedia[0] puts the Model S and Prius at the same coefficient: 0.24. The Model 3 is a rounding error better, at 0.23. The Model X is a rounding error worse, at 0.25. Another list with helpful pictures[1] shows that literally every other low-drag mass market vehicle has conventional handles[1].

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile_drag_coefficient

[1]: https://www.motoringresearch.com/car-news-list/most-aerodyna...

You make good points about the drag coefficients, but I don't know if they're comparable in terms of handles — just because they have similar overall coefficients doesn't mean the handles don't affect drag. It may be the case that the Prius body is slightly more efficient, but the handles bring it back down.

Re: range vs MPG — range anxiety isn't an issue for hybrids, because filling up at a gas station is extremely fast. So having better MPG — which is more a cost metric (and to some extent a badge of feeling good about being eco-friendly) — is less important than having longer range on an EV, because when you exceed an EV's range it's quite a bit more painful than when you exceed a hybrid's range. Technically better MPG means better range assuming tank size is equivalent, but range isn't a number many people care about for hybrids; it usually doesn't appear in marketing, whereas MPG does (and typically without tank size, so range isn't even deducible). For EVs range is one of the headline numbers, whereas MPGe typically doesn't appear in marketing.

If electric cars are more efficient, doesn't that mean every mm counts less than on a gasoline powered car?

Why wouldn’t ICE cars be equally affected by car drag coefficients?

They are, but range is not as big of an issue with ICE, so less pressure to optimize drag coefficient

Fuel is cheap. Nobody cares about that extra 0.2 mpg.

For electric it's an amplified effect, because a slightly lower drag coefficient means less energy use per mile, which means you can have a smaller battery, which in turn means lighter, which is again less energy per mile.

Its not for appearances, solely. It improves aerodynamics of the car, and reduces drag. I believe it improves efficiency by about 5%.

5% seems an awful lot for a couple of door handles.

I'd guess the previous comment needed to say

"5% compared to existing doorhandle designs"

> I believe it improves efficiency by about 5%.

5% efficiency of what? Extracting money from gullible customers wooed by gimmicks perhaps.

It's certainly not making the vehicle 5% more energy efficient across an entire typical discharge cycle, where accelerating the beast is the domimant factor and is entirely unaffected by doorhandle streamlining.

Removing sideview mirrors, reduces drag by about 5%


Removing the doorhandles, would also reduce drag.

You're making flawed assumptions about the alternative doorhandle design.

I have owned multiple cars as far back as the 80s having doorhandles flush with the body, without involving any particularly fancy or electronic gimmickery.


Those are not flush in the sense of the Tesla handles - they have a depression to insert your hand.


Are you familiar with the concept of diminishing returns? Tesla is like Juicero in this regard, but they're at least somewhat selective about it focusing on areas the consumer directly interacts with which improves sales.

One of the managers I work with has a new Model 3. The window has to roll down slightly in order for the door to open, so if the window gets stuck then the door is stuck.

Winter temperatures are just something people should be aware of if they're thinking about electric cars. If you live in a place that often has extreme cold during the winter, an electric vehicle may not be your best choice.

Any vehicle can have difficulty in extreme cold, though with an ICE engine, if it starts, it's generally okay after a short warm-up, and gasoline doesn't lose range by getting cold.

It's not really just about being able to "start". Winter temps can affect fuel/energy efficiency of ALL cars regardless if they are EVs or not. ICE cars can lose somewhere between 22-34% in range.

Source: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/coldweather.shtml

i think its worth noting that at least the summary presented on this page could be sliced into two sections

1: different usage of accessories to make the occupants comfortable, e.g. warming up interior for longer, running heated seats... 2: physical changes that affect the overall car: denser air resistance, higher rolling resistance..

the one point that is specific to an ICE engine is friction from running colder oils, the rest seem to apply to both ICE, hybrid and electric vehicles, the latter two more so.

overall the takeaway seems to be that most losses in an ICE vehicles are not about the powertrain, whereas a hybrid/electric vehicle has almost all the losses of an ICE vehicle but with significantly more battery degradation.

People have different ideas of extreme cold. To me, -20 C is not "extreme cold" and I expect my car to start right up so long as I have not gone many days without using it. I would consider -30 or -40 C to be extreme cold. I get the feeling that maybe other people consider 0 C to be extreme cold. Where I live, it's not -20 C all winter, but it does get that cold a few times a year.

"I paid $60,000 to not drain my battery so quickly."

thats your own damage, dude.

Friendly reminder that at -40C(-40F) the air is 27.5% denser in comparison to room temperature, so highway range should be affected roughly proportionally.

Also at least a few times in my life during a cold snap I arrived to a car frozen shut. It is this thing that happens sometimes.

Handles seems no fun.

As for loosing some battery charge overnight - if possible, car should be plugged. It heats the battery after all and it is very good for overall battery health and longevity.

Charging a li-ion battery when very cold is not good for it

Isn't the Tesla battery temperature-controlled? I.E. you'd use mains power to keep the battery at a safe temperature when plugged in, so it should be OK to charge? I don't know if this is what they do but AFAIK they do manage the battery temperature.

It is. What's neat is that while other vehicles like the Chevy Bolt have an electric heating element to warm up the battery a Model S actually just uses the inverter for the motor to generate heat. It can essentially intentionally waste power without moving the motor at all. Since it's on the same coolant loop this warms up the battery pack.

You're so very wrong. You're suggesting how to potentially wear-out and overcharge li-ion battery tech, not improve it. https://batteryuniversity.com/index.php/learn/article/how_to...

Teslas by default do not charge to 100% unless you set "trip mode", so it is fine to plug in and charge anytime. Also, the car will use shore power for heat and battery conditioning even if it does not need more charge.

He's spot on. Tesla vehicles heat up a cold battery pack when charging and IIRC Tesla suggests an upper charge limit of 80% for daily driving to minimize any additional wear from keeping it at a high state of charge all the time. The best approach is to plug it in and have it only charge to 80% and leave thermal management to the car, it will heat up the pack if it needs it instead of just charging it cold.

It even heats battery even unplugged. Thus draining those miles at night.

Tesla really does good job to keep the battery in shape.


Do batteries suffer permanent damage from getting that cold?

I don't know about Lithium batteries, but lead-acid ones have an interesting thing where their freezing point is much lower if they are fully charged. The acid concentration is higher and works like antifreeze. If you let it go flat the concentration drops, and the physical expansion from the water freezing just destroys the thing.

Well, it depends. If you use batteries too cold, you'll damage the electrodes. If you overcharge the batteries by trickling in current, when they're brought back to operating temps, they're more likely to thermal-runaway.

There is a small probability if you drain the battery pack to 0 and let it freeze. This would put the batteries below the safe minimal voltage and only heating the batteries up could make them chargeable, but it won't be 100% safe.

Not sure about other EV manufacturers, but The Tesla Battery Management System (BMS) automatically heats/cool the batteries as needed to keep them at optimal operating temp and longevity.

For Li-ion I think the simple answer is no.

I don't get why this is even a story. This is not exclusive to Electric Cars.

TLDR: (Internal Combustion) Car Mileage Drops By 22~34% In Winter For Short Trips https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/coldweather.shtml

Tesla's door handles - designed in California.

I guess Prius is not affected. But Prius is borning.

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