Optiwatt
Oct 22, 2021

How To Optimize Your Tesla Driving For Winter Months

We’ve taken a look at the most common challenges and considerations Tesla owners face in these colder months and built out some strategies to maximize driving range.

How To Optimize Your Tesla Driving For Winter Months

As a Tesla owner, you may have already experienced the fact that charging and driving your Tesla in temperatures around or below 32°F tends to reduce driving range and increase charging times. Maybe this winter you’re looking for some tips and tricks to maximize driving range and help with those longer charging times as we head into these colder winter months. In this article we’ll do just that. We’ve taken a look at the most common challenges and considerations Tesla owners face in these colder months and built out some common strategies and tricks to maximize driving range, minimize charging times and take control of driving your Tesla this winter!

Preconditioning Prior To Charging

The intention of preconditioning is to raise the temperature of your Tesla’s battery to an appropriate temperature prior to charging. This application of preconditioning is seen in a number of scenarios, such as charging your Tesla in extremely cold weather, or preparing your Tesla’s battery for Supercharging. For the purposes of this section, we will look at how preconditioning is used during these colder winter months and how to get the most out of the preconditioning feature.

Why Would You Use Preconditioning?

If you’re looking to charge your Tesla in conditions around 32 degrees F, without selecting any preconditioning features, Tesla is going to limit a lot of features such as full power output, regenerative braking and top charge rate, as well as charging speeds, to preserve the safety of the cold battery. The reason for these precautions is due to the electro-chemical properties of batteries where charging a battery at near freezing can actually permanently damage or even render your Tesla’s Li-ion battery completely useless.

Now, to circumvent some of these limitations, Tesla owners can enable preconditioning that will actively warm the battery prior to charging.

How To Activate Preconditioning

If the temperature of your Tesla is around freezing, you will see an icon appear in the climate control section of your Tesla App, selecting this will activate preconditioning. Alternatively in the ‘Climate’ section by selecting to turn on preconditioning will turn on the preconditioning feature.

Best Practices and Considerations

If you are looking to optimize the driving range and efficiency of your Tesla during the winter months, consider leaving your Tesla plugged in when temperatures drop to around freezing. About an hour prior to charging, turn on preconditioning. This will warm the battery to an appropriate level before charging.

Pros and Cons of Preconditioning

Pros

  • Will cut down on the waiting time if you plan to precondition ahead of when you would typically charge
  • Keeps your battery safe from applying a charge directly to a cold battery
  • Actively warms the cabin while the battery is being warmed
  • Increases range, allows for regenerative braking (which isn’t available when the battery is too cold)

Cons

  • Preconditioning will consume electricity to warm the battery while not drawing current to charge the battery
  • Planning ahead required for effective preconditioning

Smart-Preconditioning Prior To Charging

Why Would You Use Smart-Preconditioning?

Now, if you are driving your Tesla in cold weather on a predictable basis, you have the option to use smart-preconditioning. The principle of Smart-Preconditioning is to warm the battery prior to driving or charging based on your driving habits. The plus side of Smart-Preconditioning is to benefit from all of the aforementioned benefits of preconditioning in the previous section, however this feature should be applied based on your unique driving habits. So, if you leave your home at the same time every day, with ‘Smart-Preconditioning’ you are able to depend on your Tesla battery being effectively warmed prior to your trip, or at least that’s the intention.

Contrary to the intention of Smart-preconditioning, we have heard Tesla owners reporting that the smart-preconditioning features don't work effectively and can exhibit some unusual behavior, seen here & here. Some Tesla owners stated that they leave their home at the same time each morning, and the scheduled smart-departure does not seem to register and schedule the preconditioning based on their driving habits. Even further, smart-preconditioning seems to be triggered at strange times throughout the day, exhibiting sporadic behavior.

How To Activate Smart-Preconditioning?

If you are interested in using the ‘Smart Preconditioning’ setting, go into ‘Settings’ on your Tesla app, then to ‘Vehicle’ then toggle “Smart Preconditioning’ on.

Best Practices and Considerations

Unfortunately, Smart-Preconditioning seems to have some mixed results and there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut model or software release that is the culprit. Our recommendation is to try it out in order to determine if this feature is effective for your specific vehicle.

Pros and Cons For Smart-Preconditioning

Pros

  • Automatically warm your Tesla’s battery and cabin prior to driving determined by your driving habits
  • Keeps your battery safe from applying a charge directly to a cold battery
  • Easy to configure and manage through the Tesla App

Cons

  • Smart-Preconditioning will also consume electricity to warm the battery while not drawing current to charge the battery
  • Tesla owners report sporadic behavior of Smart-Preconditioning

Third Party Services To Optimize Preconditioning and Charging

Although Tesla offers a “Schedule Departure” feature on the dashboard, drivers have reported the car will only precondition up until 6 am and then stop, shown here. On top of that, preconditioning in cold conditions can take up to 30 minutes, which would require a drive to adjust their battery level each morning, to start charging their car and climate well before they leave.

Luckily, there is a free third-party app that will handle this automatically.

Optiwatt smart-preconditioning feature

Optiwatt offers a free app that will automatically precondition the car by charging 30 minutes leading up to the desired departure time. If a driver has time-of-use rates that change throughout the day, Optiwatt will automatically charge during the cheapest times and save the last 30 minutes of charge for right before the departure. It also allows the user to set the climate so the interior temperature is comfortable each morning.

Other Best Practices Considerations

Outside some of the preconditioning and smart-conditioning considerations we’ve discussed, there are some other very simple ways to maximize your driving range in winter months.

Scheduled-Departure

One great feature that seems to be taking the place of ‘Smart-Preconditioning’ is the feature of ‘Scheduled-Departure’. Scheduled Departure allows you to completely configure how you would like your Tesla charged, heated and ready to drive at a specific time. This feature also allows you to set your maximum charge level prior to driving. This feature, like the other preconditioning features, will consume energy. However, it can bring your Tesla battery and cabin to the optimal state just before charging and driving. To learn more on this feature, CF Tesla has a great overview on setting up Scheduled-Departure here.

Optimal Parking

This one is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised, lots of Tesla owners forget to leverage the power of our sun! We’ve heard some Tesla owners actually benefit from parking in the sun in the middle of the day to ensure their cabin and battery don’t drop to non-ideal temperatures.This simple heat transfer can keep your battery as warm as possible when parking outside during the winter months.

Chill Mode

Another great way to combat the loss of range in the winter months is to use the Chill Mode feature. Chill Mode moderately limits your Tesla’s acceleration to preserve energy. So now, even if you seem to be losing some range in these winter months, Chill Mode might help you even the scales here, and ensure that you aren’t burdened from the change in weather. You can read more about chill mode here.

Tesla Range in Cold Weather

Tesla Model 3's standard range is approximately 200 miles in the cold. There have been many cold-weather range tests performed. Does Tesla have a snow mode? In a sense, yes. There is a Defrost feature in your Tesla app that can effectively melt snow and ice.

Final Thoughts

As we head into these winter months, remember that maximizing driving range is in your control! We believe that by understanding the various features you have access to, you can effectively combat any loss of range or charging efficiencies as we head into these winter months. Also, as you move forward, remember to utilize features and third-party services that help optimize driving range, charging times and the associated charging costs that can be seen in winter months.

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