Here's How Much Range Your Tesla Loses in Cold Weather, Heat-Pump vs. Resistive Heating

Recently, Tesla explained how the heat pump in its cars works to save battery, and that left people scratching their heads. Guys from EV Charger Reviews wanted to see how much range a Tesla can lose in cold weather when equipped with a heat pump versus resistive heating. The results were eye-opening.
Heat pumps make EVs more efficient 6 photos
Photo: Tesla
Tesla engineers explain how they reinvented the heat pump for the Model YTesla engineers explain how they reinvented the heat pump for the Model YTesla engineers explain how they reinvented the heat pump for the Model YTesla engineers explain how they reinvented the heat pump for the Model YTesla engineers explain how they reinvented the heat pump for the Model Y
Electric Vehicles are all about efficiency and, as such, very sensitive to any energy losses. That’s because the energy stored in their batteries is limited, and anything you can save means going a little further on a charge. Electric vehicles use advanced aerodynamics, efficient tires, and, generally, all the tricks in the book to make the energy stored in the battery be used mostly for driving the car. That’s why EVs come with aerodynamic wheels, a very specific shape, and even the door handles are flush with the car’s body.

Nevertheless, aerodynamic losses are not the only thing eating into an EV’s range. Any amount of electricity used other than for spinning the motors is a waste. This includes what people use to heat the cabin, the seats, and the steering wheel in the winter. It’s a good reason why people who just bought an EV recently complain that it’s impossible to achieve the specified range.

Of course, combustion engine vehicles also lose range in the winter, but it doesn’t matter much because you can just put more gas into the tank, and you’re mostly fine. With an EV, trip planning becomes an important step, considering the need to stop for charging along the route. If the consumption increases, this can make it impossible to reach the next charging station. This can be more complicated during winter when low temperatures can deplete the battery much faster.

Luckily all Tesla vehicles in production today come with a heat pump as standard. A heat pump is like air conditioning working in reverse, harnessing heat from the drive components and the battery to warm the cabin. Thus, there’s no need for a resistive heater, which is inefficient. Tesla explained the details in a recent video, saying the heat pump makes an EV up to 20% more efficient. Nevertheless, seeing it for yourself makes it easier to understand.

The guys at EV Charger Reviews recently tested a 2019 Tesla Model 3 with resistive heating. They found that heating the cabin to 71 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) requires 26% more energy in freezing temperatures than driving without the heater. They decided to repeat the same experiment and see how cold affects a heat-pump-equipped Tesla. They chose a 2022 Model Y for the second test and followed the same route in pretty much the same conditions.

If you want to point out that they are not the same cars and energy consumption is different, yes, they were aware of that. They did not want to compare the energy consumption but wanted to see how cold weather increases consumption under similar conditions. For that, they run the Model Y on the same loop, first with heating off and then with the cabin temperature set to 71 degrees. Fair enough, the energy consumption increased by only 8% in this case.

As you can see, the difference between the two heating systems is huge. This makes it worth it for those living in colder climates to spend more money on an EV with a heat pump. It will pay for itself thanks to a lower energy bill and less time spent charging in the winter.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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