What is the Tesla Model Y’s cold weather range?

What is the Tesla Model Y’s cold weather range?

Cold weather and time are two enemies of electric-vehicle range. Here at Cars.com, we own a 2-year-old 2021 Tesla Model Y with more than 21,000 miles on the odometer and it is very much winter at our Chicago headquarters, so we decided to test our Tesla’s maximum range in the cold on a 100% charge — and I became the lucky driver who got to risk being stranded on the side of the road for the sake of informing you, dear reader.

The Rules



To conduct this test, I followed a modified version of the parameters we use for most of our fuel-economy tests on gas-powered vehicles. I kept the windows up (I would’ve anyway), the Model Y’s climate controls set to the automatic mode, and I did not use Tesla’s Autopilot cruise control or any of its more advanced semi-autonomous driving features. In these tests, we also keep the car in its Normal drive mode. However, since we bought the Acceleration Boost feature in 2022, our drive mode choices have been either “Chill” or “Sport.” I went with “Chill” since it seemed like the probable choice for an owner trying to maximize range, and I kept my personal driving style to “chill,” as well, so no hard acceleration or excessive speeding. I also used the Model Y’s regenerative braking as part of its one-pedal driving feature; again, this seemed like a natural choice for someone looking to maximize range on a long drive. Finally, I followed our own EV ownership advice and preconditioned the cabin while I was charging the car — that is, I relied on outside power to bring the cabin up to my desired temperature rather than using precious electrons from the car’s battery pack.

Once the Tesla was up to the proper temperature inside and showing 100% battery charge (and 311 miles of available range), I began my drive.

The Route



My chosen route was a mix of city, highway and suburban driving. It incorporated waypoints where I stopped to enter the next destination into the Model Y’s built-in navigation — and occasionally use a restroom or get something to eat or drink (I am human, after all). Relying on the car’s navigation let me see if the Model Y believed it could make it to the next stop without needing to charge — one of my favorite features.

I began in Evanston, Ill., and headed north toward Wisconsin, cut west through Lake Geneva, Wisc., southwest back into Illinois toward Rockford, Ill., then southeast to Sycamore and Naperville, Ill., before heading back toward Chicago. Unlike other mileage tests where we start and end at the same fuel pump for consistency, my end goal was Senior Road Test Editor Mike Hanley’s home, and the idea was that if I arrived there with excess range, I would start loops around his neighborhood to use up the rest of the Model Y’s charge before limping back to his garage to charge. The route totaled 260 miles as planned, significantly less than the 311 miles of range the Model Y said it had. Did I make it all the way?

The Results

I did not — but I came closer than expected. Ultimately, my drive ended with just 2% charge at a Chicago Supercharger station after nearly 253 miles of driving. From the penultimate stop at a Portillo’s restaurant in Oak Lawn, Ill., any of the destinations I entered required either a charging stop or would have put me somewhere without charging access and a 0% state of charge. Being a practical person, I opted to cut the drive short and charge early and not end up stuck on the side of the road waiting for assistance; if I’d been able to do this test on a closed test track, I would’ve gone until the car died (and also probably been bored out of my mind).



The data from our TeslaFi app showed that my drive of 252.76 miles — at an average speed of 38.7 mph — used 305.74 rated miles of range for an efficiency rate of 82.67%. That’s not at all bad for a trip that included range-sapping highway driving and an average temperature of 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Without any stops, I likely could have completed the journey as planned, but a six-plus-hour drive without stopping is, for me, not realistic at best and gross at worst.

What Did We Learn?

We learned that our Model Y’s battery pack is holding up pretty well even after tens of thousands of miles of driving and hundreds of charges. Outside of the highway legs of the trip, each leg of the drive had an efficiency rating of at least 86%, and I even managed a 101% efficiency leg toward the end of the journey. It’s also worth noting that even though we’re two years into our ownership of the Model Y, this was the car’s second-longest journey on a single charge. While the battery may not be operating at 100% of its original capacity when new, it hasn’t exactly fallen apart, either.

What we already knew (but is worth reiterating) is the importance of route planning when driving an EV. With Tesla’s built-in route-planning feature, it’s easy to include charging stops on long drives; for some EVs, however, you may need a third-party app to make sure you can get to your destination without running out of juice. No matter how you do it, plan your route. You can’t just walk to the nearest public charging station and carry a portable tank of electricity back to your car, and depending on location and conditions, being stranded on the side of the road can be panic-inducing to downright dangerous.

Preconditioning the cabin while plugged in, whenever possible, should also be standard practice for EV owners whether temperatures are low or high, and it reinforces the importance of Level 2 home charging for the best EV ownership experience. If you can’t plug in at home, you can’t precondition without using the battery before you begin your commute, road trip or run to the store, which reduces the amount of energy available for driving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest