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Harsh winter climate buyers - real life testing

First, I live in Quebec City, Canada. We have lot's of snow and I'm quite used to extreme winter driving.

I just went driving in the middle of a snowstorm. Bad conditions but nothing impossible. To my big surprise, I got stuck in the middle of the hill. Car was barely moving. I also tried another road, same thing. Traction control was too slow and confused. For your reference, an Honda Civic went thru the same roads slowly but surely. And, yes of course, I had winter tires... (but non studded as they're forbidden in my parking garage)

What's weird is that I went to the same hill last year with my Tesla Roadster - in the same conditions - and was able to climb without issues. So I wrongly expected the Model S to be performing in a similar way (even tough the Roadster had more weight on the rear wheels)

I'm really sad to say this, but the Model S in its current version IS NOT suitable for places with heavy snow and hills. On normal road it's okay, but as soon as you have some inclination, you're dead stuck. I was lucky not to be in traffic - that would have been awful.

martinbouch, that's interesting. Maybe you want to check with Tesla service first... Your experience is 180° opposed to what Theresa reported in the other thread:

We had a heavy wet snow here in Iowa this last week. This is the type of snow that I normally have the most trouble with. I wanted to see how the S would handle so I took it in some areas that I normally would have avoided as too difficult to navigate with snow. One was a very steep hill. [...] It is in a neighborhood that has tried to keep the land the way it always was. It is not a long hill but I cannot ride my bicycle up it unless I am in low gear and even then I sometimes can't make it up. [...] The hill was nearly glare ice and I nearly turned around but thought how else am I going to know if I don't try it.

I have the summer 21 inch tires so it was probably a stupid thing to do but I was at 30 mph at the bottom of the hill and fell to 10 mph quickly as the traction control tool over. But once I was at 10 mph the car never slowed anymore and took the rest of the hill with ease. I was amazed to say the least!

Similar experience from sbern18:

Drove in 1" of snow on pretty steep hill and unplowed driveway to my home yesterday. Great performance, stayed perfectly on line to make entrance to garage without hitting mirror, only 1 1/2 inches clearance on each side. The regen helps with slowing down going downhill also. I would say marginally worse than my "soon to be sold" 335xi four wheel drive!.

I'm not sure what's wrong with your Model S, but based on these assessments you may have been a little quick in drawing your conclusion.

Volker, I live in Montreal and on a day like today, the only way you can drive is to turn off any traction control; especially up a hill. We're not talking about an inch of snow but many. Some cars do not allow for this and as Martin suggests, are not suited for harsh winter conditions.
I am very excited about the Tesla S Performance Package but if I can't turn the traction control off, it'll be a deal breaker :(
I've seen at least one other car that could not have the traction control turned off, and I walked out of the showroom that day. We need to be able to control the power to the wheels :)

I guess you could try to control the instant torque. Alex I don't think you understand the difference between an ICE and an EV. On the bright side I think you can sort of turn it off.

It's funny how people think some snow is snow. We have had 15 inches of snow today. I got stuck another time at the shopping mall in the parking lot. I had to remove traction control, put the suspension to high. And then - lot's of back and forth. Huge pain and no way my wife will do that,

I'm not alone, other owners have been saying they have issues climbing their driveway. I'm not surprised at all considering what I'm experiencing.

I own several other cars (Volt, BMW X1, Audi Q5) and they all perform 300% better than the S in the snow.

BTW - I've just added some 500 lbs in the trunk (sand bags) and now at least the can move forward in the snow... It's now comparable to my Roadster. Also, Tesla really needs to let us drive with the suspension in high mode.

My theory is that people *wishes" Model S works in the snow, me first... But the reality is far from that.

I am no expert (yet), but it seems like there might be an option to disable the TC:

Have you tried driving the 'S with it disabled?

Here's another owner that has the same issues (in case people think I'm exaggerating):

Also, as a comparison, my friend owns an electric Ford Focus and I wasn't able to follow him in the little roads.

Thank god I didn't sold my BMW X1 for winter time.

As I said in the "other" forum, I'm afraid that Tesla did COLD WEATHER testing, not WINTER testing.

I also live in Montreal, and what I am reading (windshield fogging, weak ventilation in the rear, no side window duct for ventilation, wiper blades that cannot be raised to clear snow / ice, and now poor traction in thick snow) are making me think about cancelling my reservation, something I would have laughed at a few weeks ago.

The kind of storm we had today does not occur every week, but it is a fact of life here, and what Martin describes would usually get a car stored for the season. If the S is to be my daily driver, it has to perform predictably and safely 12 months per year.

Winter is not the same everywhere, and Tesla really needs to address these issues for those of us who have to deal with blizzards and have to drive through them (this includes Norway, the european country with the highest number of non-american reservations).

Growing pains are to be expected, but unless fixed, I will have to wait for an X or v2.0 S / AWD S, with significant financial impact (higher vehicle price as announced and expiration of our provincial tax credit).


15" of snow is a lot! Here in Seattle I can only remember that much twice in 33 years. And in England I can't remember anything more than 13" ('62 winter). In most places people don't go out in that kind of snow, that is not until it is plowed.
It does sound like a good idea to be able to raise the car for these conditions though. WIthout it, the model S sits low and would act like a plow in those conditions.
My guess is that Tesla could update the software to do that.
Gee... what a great idea it is to have a car that can be updated so easily.

One must purchase a vehicle suited to the demands they will place on it. I drive a Town Car as my daily but I don't complain to Lincoln that I cannot place a ton of cargo in the trunk and drive it. I use my 1 ton Truck instead. There are doubtless many cars that cannot handle your winter conditions and those are probably parked or not purchased in the first place if it is known or discovered through experience they can't cut it.

In short Spock said it best. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. We could also ask Tesla to sell the cars at the $30K price point so all those who live in climates perfectly suited to Model S that don't have a spare $100k+ could afford to buy one, Imagine how many more they would sell! In short if the car cannot work in your conditions it's probably not for you if you MUST use it all winter long as a daily driver.

Better wait for an all wheel drive Model X

I understand. However, we've been told Model S was decent in the snow. Actually my Tesla Roadster was doing ok. My point is just to inform potential buyers that this car is not very good in snowy conditions. Period. If they intend to only have one car, this wont be a very good solution. Better safe than sorry. I'm lucky enough to own several cars, so I can use my AWD during winter time. However, that was not my plan when I bought the car.

It snowed here in Ottawa 15inches today too, and as I was driving around before some streets were plowed I was thinking that there was no way I would be going out unless I had a 4x4. Streets got plowed by 1pm or so, so waiting until then wasn't the end of the world. But really, I wouldn't drive any non 4 wheel drive car in these conditions. Saying model s is useless in snow is an overreaction. It is fine in snow that you would drive other non 4 wheel drive cars in.


Actually there was no more than 4-6 inches on be road. Anyhow, I think Tesla should implement some winter driving tuning settings in the car. I even think traction control should be less aggressive below 5 miles per hour (at least for these conditions).

I live in chicago and we are not strangers to snowy conditions. But unless it is a light snow with the temp around freezing, we leave the rear wheel drive in the garage and take the awd. With 15 inches we leave everything in the garage and kick back with some hot chocolate.

Thanks for the feedback Martinbouch. Your experience is concerning me. I am getting my S in a few weeks and live in Evergreen, CO. My house is approximately 8,000 feet above sea level. We have lots of twisty, windy roads. There is not one flat road in Evergreen. We normally get a number of good snow falls each winter, often up to 1 foot at a time. I will have to see how the car performs here and possibly report back at a later date. Our snow is fairly dry and not as slushy as in the midwest and Eastern U.S. If the regular 19-inch wheels and tires don't perform well, then I will try snow tires next. Fortunately, I have an Escalade for these winter conditions.

I do know you can disengage the TC, so at least that will help.

Funny but I was okay today when I tried the Volt and of course the BMW X1 was handling perfectly.


Point taken. I've spent my entire life "sans the last 4 years" in horrible winter conditions between Central MN and North Dakota so I can relate to tough winter conditions lol!! I finally got fed up and bought a home here in AZ and after about a year or so sold my home in MN. and said BYE BYE winter! (understand that option may not be available for you unless you wish to change nationality) lol!

Been on the fence myself as to weather or not Model S is for me or can be justified. I'm going to the Tesla store in Fashion Square tomorrow to see a Model S in person for the first time and will likely reserve (before even driving one) "they have none available to test drive in that location".

I've gleaned this and the Tesla Owners Club forums extensively, downloaded the Model S owner guide, HPWC guide, Charge Cable guide, and practically wore the paper out reading it.

Called ahead to Fashion Square who told me they DO have two Model S at their location to demo (though none to drive). They also indicated that If I reserve tomorrow (or before Dec 31) I'll get current 2012 pricing but my MS will actually be a 2013 model. Have had several conversations with Arielle Bosch who was friendly and seemingly knowledgeable so .... as the saying goes "time to Sh*t or get off the Pot!

Will post details. I have LOTS of questions and come from a career long Automotive background. I'm sure they'll be as happy to see me leave as they may be to see me arrive lol!!

Here Goes Nothing!!

Well, just to propose an old school solution... Tesla sells chains for the model S. They cost $80. I've always had to use chains when it snows in Seattle (it is very hilly and there are no snow plows, plus the snow is wet- so it turns to ice quickly).

Also, in our mountain passes the state patrol will force you to chain up if you are not AWD or using snow tires.

So... it takes five minutes to put the chains on. Doesn't seem like a deal breaker to me.

You are driving your new Model S in 15" of snow? You got to be sh***ing me! Why?

Here's what 15" of un-plowed snow means: 48" of snow drifts. Can the BMW AWD make it through 4' of snow drifts? Are you an emergency worker and need to get through this stuff?

Canada is no stranger to lots of snowfalls in the winter, and I'm sure all of the major (and minor) streets/parking lots/shopping centers (you name it) in Quebec City are plowed as quickly as possible. The last time we got 15" of snow in Chicago we had plenty of warning and most sane people stayed off the roads for a day or two - period. (woe to the poor fools whose cars were snowed in for a while on Lake Shore Drive).

If there are other circumstances that would require you to drive through all that snow on a regular basis (again, unplowed roads) - like you live in the country and the roads don't get plowed very quickly - then I could potentially understand your disappointment. But driving in 15" of snow seems a bit much.

How does your S handle on a plowed road?

@martinbouch: Hi Martin, a short note from Switzerland, where snow covered winter mountain roads were invented.

I currently drive a Jaguar XF and under normal winter conditions with snow and ice, this car is ok, provided I use newish and very good, not too wide winter tires and drive in winter mode (higher gear, less torque). However, after heavy snowfall, I sometimes have to impound the wife's A6 allroad. That vehicle is going to be replaced by a Model X AWD in 2014. So while I expect to handle normal winter conditions well with my Model S 90% of the time, there will be a 4x4 in the household for the days where a RWD vehicle will not do the trick.

Anyway: In reality, after heavy snowfall traffic usually comes to a widespread halt due to roads being blocked for avalanche precaution, by fallen trees, by trucks that get stuck or the ever present accidents. Not even top equipped SUVs will go anywehere in such conditions.

I take exception to the title used in this thread. I have posted on TMC my concerns about the wipers and defrosting. So I am very familiar with the issues. But scaring off current and future reservation holders is not necessary in my mind. Sounds like a panic reaction to me and not fair to Tesla.
While we all want real world feedback, Martin is causing too much anxiety in my mind.


I've decided that I will not post any more updates of my snow experience. I did this to help potential buyers not become frustrated with the car in harsh winter conditions. Not to be criticized.

Most people I know are buying their Model S as their only car. One thing fore sure is that my close friends in Quebec will wait for AWD.

Good luck to you all.

Tesla Model S Signature owner
Roadster owner - (with full winter usage)

I've decided that I will not post any more updates of my snow experience. I did this to help potential buyers not become frustrated with the car in harsh winter conditions. Not to be criticized. (martinbouch)

That's a pity. I found your experiences valuable and reading your posts is definitely worthwhile for potential buyers. The headline of your post might have been a bit over the top, and your more detailed explanation was important and helpful in order to relate your experience to others' experiences. I'm glad you shared your opinion and I hope you keep us posted in the future!

You may want to make this thread "private". To do so, click "Edit" in the top left corner of this screen.

"Private" means that this page is accessible to owners and reservation holders, but not to the general public, and not to search engines. (Sic!)

Thus, you can keep the discussion going and can alert current reservation holders without inadvertently spreading FUD on a global scale.

i live in new england and we just had several inches of snow fall. my old car was an AWD volvo XC. i loved that car in the snow and mildly regretted having to give it up. so i will say that the volvo was better in the snow. having said that, i think the model s handled itself fine. the traction control took a little getting used to but i had no problems. i passed a few people who were spinning out.

From my experience so far with the Model S: I would NEVER turn off the traction control - not on snow or ice, not even on wet roads. The torque of the e-Motors can only be controlled electronically. In my Performance Model S, I even had the TC kick in at 50, when putting the pedal to the metal on a wet highway.

From my experiences with the Roadster - in Switzerland they had a one-to-one uphill winter race of the Roadster vs. a 911, both on winter tires... The 911 had no chance at all. The key is, the TC in combination with an electric motor can regulate the power a hundred times a second (very precise), where as in an ICE-car the combination of limiting the engine power takes almost all the power away for seconds and has a great time lag to rev the engine afterwards and bring power back on again. That is why people in ICE cars turn TC off in heavy snow conditions. But please not in an electric car.

That is the reason why the Model S will always perform better with TC on. The Model X (with dual Motors and AWD) is expected to climb any icy hill considerable faster than any of its ICE-4WD competitors out there.


The best I was ever able to do with an ICE engine was to climb in 2nd gear, with careful feathering of the clutch and gas. Aside from the mechanical slowness of ICE response, the best human reactions are on the order of 0.1 seconds, and that's exceptional.

No snow on roads today, but here is my cold weather test drive battery results from today, 1/1/13:

Outside temp 7 - 11 deg F. in SE Minnesota.
Accessories in use were: XM radio (moderately loud), driver seat heater at #1 level, and Climate Control set to 67 deg F, auto fan, but with 'Range Mode = On' (which limits how hard the heater/fan tries to work - see notes on software v 4.1). Overall, it was a very chilly cabin.

Tires are Dunlop snow tires on 19" aftermarket wheels, inflated to 45psi on dry roads.

Drove 86.2 miles (43.1 out, 43.1 back), at steady 65 mph (cruise control), on gently rolling hills, with no net elevation gain.
'Rated Range' at start 250 miles (with warm recently charged battery).
'Rated Range' at end 129 miles. When I shut down, I got a messages saying the battery is cold, and recommended charging.
So: used 121 'Rated Miles' to go 86.2 miles (achieved 71% of rating).
The 30 mile average projected range remaining at end was 102 miles projected. So, real miles plus realistic projected range was 188.2 miles, compared to 250 'Rated', or 75% of rated miles.
Average energy use was 411 Wh/mi, with total energy use of 35.4 kWh.

I was a bit disappointed, but then again it was 7 deg out! I would have thought that the batteries would stay plenty warm, as I used them to cruise at 65mph, but apparently they got colder as the trip went on.
Next, I will try the same trip at 55 mph cruise control (tomorrow - should be about the same temp).

+1 well articulated

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