Last week's polar vortex proved there's work to be done.
Last week was not easy for a good chunk of the US. Record low, bitter cold temperatures made life miserable for millions of Americans and that polar vortex, as it turns out, was particularly unkind to electric vehicles and their owners. Bloomberg has spoken with some EV owners and other technology experts about how EVs are not always suitable for extreme cold.
Even many Tesla owners have posted their grievances to social media, such as reduced battery range and even frozen door handles. However, it’s not only Teslas that are affected by cold weather-related battery issues. All EVs are, no matter the automaker. One Tesla Model 3 owner from New Jersey complained that the cold "drained (his) car’s battery 20 to 25 miles overnight and an extra five to ten miles on (his) drive to work.”
Unfortunately for this guy, he even paid extra for the upgraded battery range to the tune of $60,000. But is Tesla really to blame here? Not really. "It’s Panasonic that manufactures Tesla batteries,” said Salim Morsy, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "It’s not something specific to Tesla. It happens to Chevy with the Bolt and Nissan with the Leaf.”
However, there is something that makes all Tesla vehicles stand out from other EVs: the door handles. You see, they’re kind of hi-tech because they fold completely into the door, which looks cool and all. But in certain real-world situations, such as a deep freeze, these door handles can become frozen in place.
Pictures of this happening were posted to social media and even shared with Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself on Twitter. Some owners asked Musk for a fix. One Canadian Model 3 owner, who knew the cold weather was coming, prepared his car’s door handles in advance by taping dental adhesive film over them in order to shield them from the cold.
Musk got the message and later tweeted that "Many cold weather improvements coming via OTA software.” But the main issue automakers and battery suppliers need to figure out is how to prevent battery drainage in extreme cold. Chances are, last week’s polar vortex wasn’t a one-time thing.