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Frozen Front Flap Leads To Cold Cabins For Teslas With Heat Pumps

Some Tesla drivers are having cabin heating issues in very cold weather. Help is on the way.

There is a cascade of reports from Tesla owners in Canada and Alaska about cars equipped with heat pumps failing to deliver cabin heat in extremely cold conditions. InsideEVs says complaints are cropping up on Fakebook and Twitter from owners who report dangerously cold conditions amid warnings that the heating system has failed. Here’s what one owner had to say:

Kroeker adds, “If an #EV or a @Tesla cannot get places in winter than the detractors will see themselves as right, ‘they won’t work in extreme climates.’ I hear it almost daily. You NEED to do better, period. I am not the only one having troubles. I’ve gone out of my way to be a @Tesla/#EV warrior where I live in South East Saskatchewan, the heart of oil and coal county. I get ridiculed for going EV, sometimes harassed. I am kinda at a loss, considering throwing in the towel, thinking of selling and going back to ICE.”

Kroeker’s cause has been taken up by Tesla Owners Online, who spoke to people at Tesla and found out they are working feverishly to solve the problem. So far, it appears the issue is not a malfunction of the heat pumps in those cars. Tesla Owners Online says, “The heat pump system actually has the ability to work really well, even in temps colder than -30C, because there are two loops that use compression and expansion of the refrigerant (going from liquid to gas to liquid) and those loops can produce heat, even in the extreme cold. The Alaska team has been testing this in super cold, and it does work well. So fundamentally the heat pump can and will work in our climates.”

There is some indication that a recent firmware update may have exacerbated the situation and Tesla is working hard to address the problem. The root cause appears to be that in extreme cold, the shutter built into the front of the cars below the bumper can be disabled by frozen snow and/or ice, preventing it from closing. This allows “cold air into the system when driving on the highway, which is preventing the heat pump system ability to work correctly,” Tesla Owners Online says.

“The cold air passes by a sensor and tells the climate system it’s failing, and then you get the famous error and the compressor just stops. One of the things they’re potentially going to do with software as a quick win is allow the compressor/system to keep working, even if the flap is not functioning properly. And of course they’re trying to figure out how to prevent this in the first place. Of note, the Tech recommended ensuring the black grill on the front of your car is clean and clear, as snow/ice build up there can cause the flap to not open/close properly.”

The Takeaway On Tesla Heaters Not Working In Extreme Cold

Issues like this are the reason why manufacturers do extensive cold-weather testing and hot-weather testing. They test in high-humidity and high-salt environments. There are millions of microclimates in the world, and cars have to be able to operate properly in all of them. The good news here is that the heat pumps themselves do not appear to be the cause of the problem. It is basically a sensor issue, one that can be solved by Tesla engineers and downloaded over the internet. Be assured that Tesla is aware of the problem and working to find a solution as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the best source of news and updates on this topic appears to be Tesla Owners Online, which is doing an outstanding job of keeping people informed about the problem and the solutions coming from the Tesla mother ship.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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