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What’s Your Tesla Electric Vehicle Range when You Use the HVAC?



When you use the Tesla heating or AC to feel comfy in your EV, you better make sure you realize jut how the HVAC will affect your range and power consumption.

In the EV sector of the automotive industry, there’s no doubting the popularity of the Tesla brand. Unlike the EVs that came before the Tesla, their EVs looked great and were much faster. Their Model S became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s safest rated car. You can also charge it in a few minutes, rather than hours.

The battery in a Tesla is much more efficient than the batteries in most of the other EVs, which help explain much of the Tesla popularity. But that doesn’t mean you can forget the realities of driving a Tesla EV every day.

That’s especially true if you need to feel more comfortable in the EV and use the HVAC. When you turn on the heating or the air conditioning, because that act will have a profound effect on the range and efficiency of your car.

Why is HVAC Use a Big Deal in an EV?

There are 2 main reasons why you need to think more carefully about using the heating or air conditioning in an EV.

One crucial factor to keep in mind is that in an EV, all your energy requirements come directly from the battery itself. Divert that energy to improve the temperature inside the EV, and that’s energy that you could have use for your car travel.

In contrast, in a car powered by gasoline, you can heat the car cabin using the waste heat from the car engine. This doesn’t affect the efficiency of the car at all.

Then there’s also the fact that you have a lot more energy available in a standard gas tank than what you can get from a fully charged battery in a Tesla Model 3. You have about 505.5 kilowatt-hours of energy available from your 15-gallon gas tank. In the Model 3, you don’t even get 1/6 of that energy.

That means you don’t have as much energy to waste, and you’ll have to be more mindful about husbanding your available energy resources in the Tesla Model 3.

Testing the Model 3

Before we started the tests, we drove the Model 3 around the track for about 30 minutes. This warmed up the cabin while it also settled the built-in consumption meter in the EV. We didn’t want to test the Model 3 with a cold battery and cabin, since that would have inflated the energy consumption figures even more.

The tests involved doing 2 laps in the Model 3 for each HVAC setting. Here are the 3 test conditions and results:


This test was done with the HVAC completely off. We obtained an average energy consumption of 344 watt-hours per mile. That translates to an expected range of 234 miles, which isn’t too bad.

72 Auto

For the next test condition, we set the climate setting to 72 degrees and on automatic. That boosted the energy consumption to 402 watt-hours per mile. That’s about 17% greater energy consumption than the baseline. Now the expected range of the EV drops to 200 miles per full charge.

Max Heat with All Seat Warmers On

This is the setting you’ll probably need if you’re carpooling during the winter (especially in cold places like Michigan and Minnesota). When we did this, we felt nice and snug inside the car.

But we sure didn’t feel as comfortable when we found out that the energy consumption went all the way up to 466 watt-hours per mile. That’s a substantial energy rate increase of 35%, compared to the baseline figures.

That reduced the expected range all the way down to merely 173 miles. In other words, you lose 61 miles from your EV range when you crank up the heating.

Future Considerations

The good news for the moment is that some aspects of the EV are changing for greater heating efficiency. Right now, the Model 3 uses the cheaper resistive electric heater that basically works like the glowing coils in your toaster.

This isn’t as efficient as a heat pump. However, more EVs are now using the heat pump. These EVs include Jaguar I-Pace, Audi e-tron, Kia Niro EV, and Nissan Leaf. You’ll also find a heat pump in the new Tesla Model Y.

For the moment, however, you have to be more mindful when you use the HVAC in your EV. Think it through first—do you really need to use more heat or air conditioning? A little bit of discomfort may not be all that bad, when the alternative is to lose a lot of the range you normally expect from your electric vehicle.


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