How to Precondition a Tesla Battery

Batteries are the most crucial part of an electric vehicle. Your vehicle is reduced to a huge, heavy, hard-to-move metal body without them. They provide the energy your electric vehicle needs to move.

What happens if you don’t maintain your car battery? Its strength and overall life take a deep plunge, and you have to replace them sooner than expected.

Why is that a concern? Because battery replacement is usually a significant expense for all-electric car owners.

How to Precondition Tesla Battery?

There are five main features you can use to precondition a Tesla battery. These features keep your battery safe:

  1. Precondition Option in the App
  2. Smart-Preconditioning
  3. Navigation Feature
  4. Scheduled Departure Feature
Precondition a Tesla battery
Precondition a Tesla battery

What Is Preconditioning?

Have you ever noticed why many cars break down when the weather is icy cold or melting-hot? Well, that is because the climate has a significant impact on an electric car’s performance.

Climatic factors like temperature and humidity make electric car batteries wear down faster. The more these batteries age, the less efficient they become. Therefore, they need proper care in areas with severe temperatures. This is exactly where preconditioning can help.

Some Tesla owners might have heard about it from others or came across this word in their Tesla manual but still not fully understand what it is all about.

So, here is an exact definition:

Preconditioning means bringing your car battery to a suitable temperature before charging or taking it out on the roads. Precisely, your battery needs preconditioning on cold winter and hot summer days.

Now, time for some important questions:

  • What are the benefits of preconditioning?
  • How long do you need to precondition your battery?
  • What are the different ways to precondition a Tesla battery?

Why Precondition a Tesla Battery?

The normal temperature for an electric car battery is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Batteries can easily and quickly accept and deliver electric current at this temperature.

When the temperature gets too high or too low, it causes several problems. Why? Because extreme temperatures affect the rate and efficiency of chemical reactions of lithium-ion batteries.

Regulating the temperature through preconditioning preserves the battery’s energy cells. The following are the exact consequences of too high or too low temperatures on an electric car battery:

1. The Charging Speed of your Tesla’s Battery Turn Slow

When charging your Tesla’s battery on a cold day, notice that the charge will be slow at the start, speed up in between, and then turn slow again towards the final stage of charging.

In short, the battery takes more time to charge than usual.

2. The Range of Your Tesla Decreases

Your vehicle needs to draw more energy from the battery to start and function in cold temperatures. The temperature control system in your car also needlessly drains your battery to keep the cabin warm.

Consequently, your battery runs out of charge quickly, and you cannot travel for too long.

3. Regenerative Braking Does Not Work.

Regenerative braking is one of the main benefits of having an electric car. When you press on the brake, the brake pads are pushed against the brake discs located on each wheel by hydraulic fluid.

The friction produced through this process slows the car down.

In a regular gas-powered car, this energy goes to waste. However, electric car batteries reuse that energy by directing it back to the battery again.

This process is called regenerative braking, and it boosts the battery’s charge and efficiency. It means you don’t have to rely on manual braking.

Regenerative braking doesn’t work when the battery is cold. Why? Because a cold battery cannot accept the charge in such situations without damaging itself.

Therefore, the Tesla software turns off the regenerative function completely or partially to protect the battery from damage.

4. Battery Life Is Reduced

Charging a Tesla Battery specifically below 0 degrees or 32 degrees Fahrenheit may also cause permanent damage.

Although you won’t see any apparent damage to the battery when charging in cold conditions, it can still become the reason for the battery’s failure.

Charging a cold battery leads to lithium plating, a process where metallic lithium accumulates on the battery’s negative electrode.

Lithium plating can lead to further battery degradation when exposed to vibration or other stress. This means your battery will fail soon.

Conclusively, do not expect your battery to last long once it’s covered in lithium plating.

Here is a table of the advisable temperatures at which you should charge different kinds of batteries.

Battery TypePermissible Charging
Lead AcidCharge at 0.3C or less below freezing.
NiCd, NiMHCharge at 0.1C between – 18°C and 0°C. Charge at 0.3C between 0°C and 5°C.
Li-ionNo charge is permitted below freezing.

Read Charging an Electric Car in an Apartment

When to Precondition a Tesla Battery?

Tesla notifies you through a blue snowflake on the touchscreen whenever your battery is too cold. This is a sign that your battery needs to warm up.

During the time the blue snowflake remains on your touchscreen, you might experience a limited range and regenerative power.

The icon does not go away from the touchscreen until the battery returns to its normal temperature, either through driving or charging and preconditioning.

In short, the blue snowflake indicates that your battery needs preconditioning.

How Long Should You Precondition a Tesla Battery?

There is no fixed time to how long you need to precondition a Tesla battery.

However, the most recommended time for a preconditioning session at home is around 20 to 45 minutes before hitting the roads.

When you plan to stop at a supercharging station, precondition the battery for at least 10 to 20 minutes to effectively charge the battery through DC mode.

In fact, your Tesla will start preconditioning its battery automatically when you are near a supercharging station on your route.

Read How far can an electric car go on one charge?

How to Precondition a Tesla Battery?

As mentioned in the beginning, there are different ways to precondition a Tesla battery. Each method is explained comprehensively below.

1. Preconditioning Feature

You can regulate the car’s temperature through the climate control screen on Tesla’s app.

The Tesla app shows a blue snowflake when your battery becomes too cold. Click on that icon to turn on preconditioning.

Alternately, you can go into the climate section of the app and turn on preconditioning from there.

A red battery icon will show up on the climate control screen of Tesla’s app, which means that your Tesla is successfully preconditioning the battery.

Additionally, you have the option of defrosting in the climate section that can return the temperature of your car and its battery to normal.

Note: Make sure your car is plugged in while preconditioning. Otherwise, your car will use the reserved charge to precondition your battery. This will mean less charge for you to use while driving.

2. Smart Preconditioning Feature

Smart conditioning basically evaluates your daily driving habits and automatically turns on the preconditioning features based on predictions.

With smart preconditioning, you don’t have to activate the option of preconditioning manually every time. You have to turn on this feature through the car’s media system or the mobile app.

For example, if you leave for work at the same time every day, smart conditioning will precondition your battery before you leave.

However, many people claim that this feature is not working effectively for now. The app is unable to predict the user’s driving habits accurately.

3. Navigation Feature

The more features you use in a car, the more their battery warms up. If you plan to stop at a supercharging station soon, turn on your navigation system even if you know the way.

Through the navigation feature, your app will figure out you are near a charging station and return the battery to its normal temperature before you reach there.

4. Scheduled Departure

Scheduled Departure has taken the place of the smart-preconditioning feature for Tesla users. Under this feature, you can tell the app how and when you want your Tesla battery to be preconditioned according to your schedule. You can set up a daily or weekly travel schedule with this feature.

Go to the settings in your app and select the climate control option. You will find the preconditioning feature there.

Turn that on and select the schedule to set a fixed time for your travel. The Tesla will automatically start preheating your battery at an appropriate time before your scheduled travel.

Read How to Install Electric Vehicle Charging Station At Home

Other Ways to Keep Your Battery Warm

Some other measures and Tesla features that can keep your battery temperature normal are briefly explained below.

Park in a Suitable Area

Try to find a suitable parking spot when the temperatures are too hot or cold. When your battery is not exposed to the harsh cold and scorching heat, it can easily maintain a normal temperature.

On cold days, you can park your Tesla in an area under the Sun. The heat from the Sun alone will bring up the battery’s temperature and reduce the time you spend warming it up.

On the days when it’s too hot, park your Tesla in a shaded area to protect it from the Sun.

Drag Strip Mode

If you own Tesla’s Model S, you can use the drag strip mode to warm up your battery. However, this mode can only be used on a closed circuit and is suitable only before a short distance race.

It involves the use of acceleration to generate enough warmth.

The car stays in the drag strip mode even if the vehicle is left unattended. The feature disables automatically after three hours to prevent any energy losses if you forget to cancel it on your own.

How to Precondition Tesla Battery
How to Precondition Tesla Battery

Read How many solar panels does it take to charge an electric car?

Other Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Battery

Do Not Use Excessive Energy

Heating the whole car consumes more energy. Instead of doing that, you can use seat heaters for warmth and turn on the heat control on the steering.

The charge saved from using less energy in the car leaves more charge for you to cover more distance.

Drive at Moderate Speeds

It’s better to drive at moderate speeds to keep your battery at suitable temperatures. Limiting your use of energy will increase your battery efficiency too.

Use the Chill Mode

Using chill mode limits frequent acceleration and deceleration. It also protects the battery from the rapid change of speeds. This way, you can make up for the lost range.

Final Word

Climate is one of the major factors that affect an electric car’s battery. It makes your car charge at slower speeds, reduces your range, and limits features like regenerative braking.

Plus, charging or using a battery at high or low temperatures can also cause permanent damage and reduce the battery’s life.

Therefore, it is essential to precondition the battery before charging or using it, which means bringing it back to normal temperatures.

You can precondition the battery by activating the preconditioning feature in the climate control screen of Tesla’s app.

Moreover, you can also use the feature of smart-preconditioning, which allows the app to predict your driving habits, and set your battery for preconditioning accordingly.

Navigation is another feature that can precondition your battery effectively.

Conclusively, using an electric car battery with proper care increases its efficiency and makes it last longer. So, make sure you always precondition Tesla’s battery before charging or driving in harsh climatic conditions.

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