How to Maximize Winter Range and Efficiency in your Tesla

People regularly ask how they can extend the range of their electric vehicles during the efficiency-crippling winter months (you know, in places that experience cold and snowy winters).

There are several settings and routines that you can implement that will drastically improve your efficiency and, in turn, your range that really only require foresight and some tweaking of the settings made available to you on your in-car computer. I've shared my pointers/routines below and some of the results (not scientific nor specific, but consistent). Of course, situations vary and you will likely experience slightly different results due to a number of factors. However, doing the items below can only help and are good practices in the winter either way.

Please, if you think anything has been left out, add it in the comments and I'll update.

The Facts

I drive about 65 miles roundtrip for my daily commute. About 93% of that drive is on highways and using Autopilot. About 80% of the drive is a 70 MPH speed limit, which I set AP to 75 MPH. The remainder averages 50 MPH which I set AP to 55-60 MPH. This time of year, the weather is relatively consistently 25-30 F during my commute times.

I park in the garage and I charge via my Universal Mobile Connector (UMC) (connected to a NEMA 14-50 outlet) overnight.

Routines:

  • Charge nightly to 80%. Keep car plugged in whenever possible.
  • Don't let your car drop below 10% charge, when possible. Your sweet spot is the 40-80% range.
  • Time charging to complete ~5 minutes prior to departure. This is perfect conditioning for the batteries and will more than likely not limit regenerative braking at the beginning of your travels.
  • Before leaving work (or if you park outside overnight), condition car for 25-30 minutes using Climate Controls.
  • Stay below 80 MPH.
  • Besides pre-conditioning the car, use heated seats and not the HVAC system while driving. The heater KILLS efficiency. I have felt perfectly comfortable just using the heated seats and not turning on the heat in the car in 20 F temperatures.

Settings:

  • Set your charging limit (charging settings on in-car computer). Do not charge over 90% consistently, unless you need the range that next day.
  • Setup Charging Timer from the charging pane on your in-car computer. Gauge the time that you leave and how much your car generally needs to charge. In my opinion, it's better to still have a touch left to charge when you leave then to fully charge and have it end ~15 minutes or more before you depart. The key is to warm up the batteries, and charging does this perfectly. This is something I change almost daily, depending on how much I drove that day and when I'm leaving that next morning.
  • Enable Chill Mode (Driving menu) to reduce the urge to “floor it,” which eats efficiency for breakfast.
  • Turn off HVAC, turn on heated seats.

 

Outcomes:

I have found that given “the facts” above and the routines and settings I've implemented, I can travel my 65 mile commute and my utilized milage is about 70 miles. This is really good considering what I have experienced without implementing this routine.

 

Notes/Reminders:

  • If it is snowing, it is best to turn regenerative braking to “Low” (Driving menu). This will have an impact on milage, but it is safer to drive without the immediate braking when not accelerating (less of a chance for wheels to lock up).
  • Creep mode also helps in snowy/icy weather as it lets you ease into your acceleration.
  • If you've removed the Aero caps and want to maximize your range, it might make sense to put them back on during winter months.
  • If you park outside overnight, I'd recommend adding 10-15 minutes of pre-conditioning time…especially if the car is plugged in and drawing from charger.

 

So, that's my routine and it seems to be working well for me. What do you do during the winter to maximize range? We'd appreciate you sharing any tips and tricks in the comments!

5 comments

  1. I would like to ask you few questions.

    Why do I have to keep the car plugged every time? Even though I have garage, I usually park on my driveway as my garage is full of storage. It will be difficult for me to keep the car plugged all the time.

    Why shall I not charge the battery more than 80% and should try not to drop battery less than 40%? Because in this scenario, my Mid Range RWD have only 104 miles capacity per charge, I can’t charge more than 208 miles (60% of 260 miles) and have to recharge once I am at 104 miles. In winter, the range will be even less. Is not dropping battery less than 40% necessary for battery health or just for precaution?

    How can I set up charging time? Can I set up through the Tesla app? Sorry, I am completely new to Tesla. I will also try to search online, how to set up time charging timeline.

    “Before leaving work (or if you park outside overnight), condition car for 25-30 minutes using Climate Controls.”

    You mean, I shall start the heater for 25-30 minutes prior to driving? That will reduce my battery drastically. I tried to remotely start the car for 5 minutes with full HVAC heater and my battery range dropped almost 5 miles yesterday.

    You recommend “adding 10-15 minutes of pre-conditioning time”. Could you please elaborate what does that mean?

    1. Thanks so much for your questions! I will respond to them in order.

      1. Keeping the car plugged in helps offset vapire drain, especially in the winter. The car does not constantly draw power, however keeping it plugged in will keep batteries warmer and will allow the car to pull power when it drops below certain thresholds. All in all, the ability for it to pull power when needed allows the batteries to warm up periodically throughout the time it is plugged in. So, I think the better phrasing would be “keep it plugged in as much as possible” and not necessarily “all the time.”

      2. Tesla recommends not charging above 90% unless you are going to immediately use that charge when traveling (on a trip, for instance). Batteries do not like to be fully charged and remain that way. This will help maintain battery health and ensure that you get the longest life of your batteries possible. It is completely safe to charge up to 90% if you need the range, just avoid charging above that if possible for your daily use. On the low end, Tesla recommends not letting the charge drop below 10% on a regular basis, however if possible, keeping your car in that 30-80% range is most ideal.

      3. You can configure your charging time by tapping the charge icon (lightning bolt) on the left side of the in-car computer screen. Then, enable “Scheduled Charge” and set what time you’d like it to begin. Unfortunately, it is not something that can be setup through the app at this time. Keep the cable plugged in and it will start charging at the time you specify. I’ll put together a quick post on the topic!

      4. Yes, especially if the car is outside, start the heater/defrosters 25-30 minutes before driving. In my experience, the drain from pre-conditioning will be far less than driving an ice-cold vehicle, plus regenerative braking will not be enabled for likely the majority of your trip. The benefit of having the charger connected in this case is that it will pull charge from the cable to pre-condition, which wouldn’t affect your overall range. I would add 10-15 minutes to this time if your car is outside and the temperature outside is 20F or lower.

      Keep the questions coming!

      1. Thank you for the reply.

        If I keep the battery plugged in for longer time, will it affect the battery in longer time as I think all the battery are made of lithium and they tend to get damaged if we overcharge them or keep them plugged in for longer time.

        Also, tesla website indicates that the battery warranty is cover for 8 years with minimum 70% retention of Battery capacity over the warranty period. I doubt if the battery will retain 70% of capacity for 8 years. (I am just assuming from cellphone, laptop batteries which usually dies within few years with regular usages). Could you please let me know how to take care of the battery while having maximum mileage, so that the battery capacity doesn’t go below 70%?

        Thank you.

        1. It’s tough to compare the two (EV batteries and cell phone batteries) despite both being lithium. Check out these articles about the difference between the two:

          https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/why_mobile_phone_batteries_do_not_last_as_long_as_an_ev_battery
          https://www.quora.com/Why-is-the-life-of-a-battery-for-an-electric-car-so-much-longer-than-a-mobile-phone-battery

          Essentially, cell phones are designed to be fully charged and then fully depleted over the course of a day’s use. It operates on load cycles and the battery degrades around the time that the forced obsolescence kicks in (broken screen, desire to upgrade, etc). Conversely, EV batteries are not typically fully charged and fully depleted in between charges (not many people run their full range on a daily basis). This allows for the car to remain in that sweet spot (30-80%) and greatly extend the longevity of the battery (read the first article above for greater detail).

          Based on that understanding, it is entirely reasonable that the battery will retain at least 70% capacity at the 8-year mark.

          Again, the best way to take care of your battery is to not fall into the “trouble zones.” Stay above 10% and below 90% as much as possible. My Delivery Advisor said to charge for what you need during the day – try to stay between 40-80% if possible.

          Hope this helps!

          1. “try to stay between 40-80% if possible.” – This might resolve all of my issues, I think!

            Thank you!

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