No previous Tesla model has had this range-saving feature.
If you know anything about the compromises of EV ownership, you know that cold weather range is a real concern. Batteries don't care for cold weather, and if you're a red-blooded human being, chances are you're going to want to have the heat on. Since pure-electric vehicles lack an internal combustion engine to generate waste heat, EV cabin heat typically comes from electric heating elements - another drain on the battery.
The Tesla Model Y addresses part of this problem head-on with the company's first-ever heat pump, which will help keep the new electric crossover cabin warm without relying on resistive heating elements.
Tesla fan Andy Slye put together a YouTube video about the Model Y's new heat pump, providing a good explanation of how the system works. Basically, a heat pump like the one used here relies on the vehicle's air-conditioning system, pumping in reverse and using its refrigerant to capture heat from the atmosphere in order to warm up the cabin.
Naturally, the system adds a bit of complexity; pumping the A/C refrigerant in reverse requires a reversing valve, among other things. But we tend to think the trade-offs will be more than worth it when the temperature dips next winter.
As it stands, depending on how cold it is outside, battery-electric vehicles can lose up to about half of their maximum range in frigid temperatures. While the Tesla Model Y's heat pump won't reduce that to zero, it should make a significant dent in the amount of range lost by operating far more efficiently than a resistive heating system.
In fact, according to Andy Slye, heat pump systems like the one in the Model Y can achieve up to around 300% efficiency, in the sense that 1 kW of electrical energy can typically yield about 3 kW of thermal energy.
With that, Tesla drivers soon might not even need to drive from underneath a blanket. How cool is that?