By Kevin Killough, State Energy Reporter
Jason Bloomberg, a Cheyenne doctor and experienced electric vehicle owner, said a viral video of a man unable to charge his Tesla on Christmas Eve because of the cold weather is misleading.
“The guy basically abused his equipment and then was surprised it didn’t work,” Bloomberg said.
Domenik Nati, a radio show host who lives in Lynchburg, Virginia, posted a video on Twitter of his struggles to charge his Tesla S on Christmas Eve.
According to Nati’s video, which has more than 100,000 views, Nati attempted to charge the vehicle at home, but got a warning that the battery needed to warm up before it could be charged.
In the video, Nati said that he was unable to get the car to take a charge at home, so he drove to a Tesla Supercharger station to try his luck there.
He had 19 miles of range left on the vehicle when he arrived at the station, according to shots of his dashboard readouts. After he plugged the car in at the charging station, the vehicle’s computer gave him the warning again that the battery was heating and he needed to keep it plugged in.
Two hours later, the warning hadn’t gone off and the car wasn’t taking a charge.
Read The Manual
Bloomberg has been driving EVs since 2007, when he bought a 1993 Eagle Summit Wagon, which had been converted into an all electric vehicle with 20 lead-acid batteries.
He also had a 1983 Porsche 911 that was converted into an electric vehicle with 19 lead-acid batteries. He called them his “lead sleds” and has since donated them to the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum in Kingman, Arizona.
He’s had some other EVs since. He and his wife now drive a 2012 Tesla Model S and a 2018 Tesla Model X.
As an experienced owner of EVs, Bloomberg said Nati was likely doing several things wrong.
One possible mistake was not leaving the car plugged in overnight at his house. On cold nights, Bloomberg said, you want to leave the car plugged in, as the Tesla’s owner manual instructs drivers to do.
A cold battery will charge slower, but charging overnight should leave the car with a pretty good range by morning.
The other mistake was expecting the car battery to warm up quickly. It takes some time, Bloomberg said.
“It’s just like if you were in Arctic temperatures like we had last week, you’re not going to plug in your block heater and expect 10 minutes later to start your diesel engine,” Bloomberg said.
The other mistake Nati likely made was letting the Tesla get below a 20% charge. While the vehicles can be driven with charges that low, it decreases the life of a battery and makes it much more difficult to charge when it’s cold.
Bloomberg said it’s no different than gas-powered vehicle owners not letting their gas tanks go below one-quarter full.
Last Wednesday night when the Arctic blast sent temperatures plunging more than 40 degrees in a couple hours, Bloomberg took his vehicle to the Veterans Administration, where he works as an overnight inpatient hospitalist.
Just as it’s not good for the battery to discharge below 20%, EV batteries last longer if they’re not regularly charged to full. While Bloomberg normally sets his charger to only go to 80%, on cold winter days he goes to 90%.
On Wednesday, he said he had an overnight loss of 3% charge. By the time he got to work, he was at 72%. Overnight, the temperature got down to minus 52 with the windchill. He lost about 10% of his range in that cold.
From the Tesla app on his phone, he can see if the battery is too cold. The screenshots of the app in Neti’s video show the little blue snowflake that pops up to warn the driver that the battery needs to be preconditioned for charging.
About 45 minutes before the end of his shift, Bloomberg turned on the battery heater. He lost another 10% charge warming up the battery, but the little blue snowflake was replaced with red wavy lines showing the battery was ready to charge.
When he got home, Bloomberg said he plugged it back in.
Safe And Warm
Bloomberg points out another benefit to driving an EV in the cold.
A blizzard dropped about 40 inches of snow in the Buffalo, New York, area this weekend. At least 28 people died, including 14 from exposure, three of which were found in their vehicles.
It’s unclear if they froze to death or died of carbon monoxide poisoning, which happens when snow covers the exhaust and fumes build up inside the car.
Several years ago, Bloomberg and four of his friends headed off to a concert in Laramie in his Tesla Model S. It was winter, and a blizzard hit with whiteout conditions. The group made it to Laramie, but Interstate 80 was closed when they tried to get back home.
This was before Tesla put a Supercharger in Laramie, so Bloomberg and his friends were stuck in the car with 48% charge in freezing temperatures.
His friends “started asking me, ‘Are we going to freeze to death?’” Bloomberg said.
With the climate control running to keep the interior warm, Bloomberg said he was draining about 1% of the battery per hour. So, they had at least 48 hours of heat if they needed it.
“Meanwhile, I’m surrounded by people spewing exhaust, and maybe they’re turning their engines on and off,” he said. “But most of them were just sitting there idling. I doubt most of those vehicles had 48 hours worth of fuel in them.”