Tesla vehicles may be the cars of the future, but how well do they handle in snow? In other words, which is the best Tesla for snow?
When comparing and contrasting different Tesla vehicles with one another, we find that not all Tesla cars handle the same in snowy conditions - this is due to many factors that we cover below. According to many experts, the Tesla Model 3 is the best Tesla for snow due to a variety of reasons.
This article will explain in detail what it takes for an electric vehicle to handle well in snow and what systems Tesla vehicles are built with to improve handling in snow. Do electric vehicles generally handle better in the snow? Is Tesla’s all-wheel-drive system better than the more conventional four-wheel-drive system when it comes to driving in snow? How does regenerative braking cause issues when driving in snow? These are just some of the questions that this article will tackle before coming to the crux of the issue, which is, what makes the Tesla Model 3 the best Tesla for snow?
We have scoured through information on various automotive engineering websites as well as from the online Tesla owner community to come up with the answers to the above questions and more.
How Well Do Electric Vehicles Handle in the Snow?
When it comes to handling in the snow, electric cars are generally neither here nor there. While one can only really understand how well a particular electric vehicle handles in the snow by taking it for a test drive in the winter, the particular features and systems used in the vehicle can tell us a lot about the extent to which it is designed to perform on snow-covered roads.
For example, early hybrid vehicles weren’t particularly designed to handle well in the snow. Although these early models did have traction control systems, they were overly reliant on computer-based traction systems. This simple fact means that the early hybrid vehicles proved very difficult to drive in the snow, mostly because the driver couldn’t manually disengage the car’s traction control system.
Another issue with early hybrid vehicles was the placement of the battery pack, which was conventionally higher up in the vehicle. This gave these cars a high, and at times, a slightly lopsided center of gravity. If a car’s center of gravity is too high or lopsided, this can cause the car to spin out of control more easily on snowy, slippery roads.
Modern electric cars, like those produced by Tesla, have come very far in the last decade and show a vast improvement when it comes to handling in snow. The battery packs are very low in the vehicle, providing a low center of gravity and hence making the vehicle less likely to lose its balance with every slight loss of traction. More importantly, however, the latest electric cars by Tesla come with advanced traction control systems, which, when combined with an all-wheel-drive system, allows for automated control of the amount of traction experienced by each of the four wheels. Therefore, these latest systems have made a huge difference in how well Tesla cars generally handle in the snow.
All-Wheel-Drive vs. Four-Wheel-Drive
All-wheel-drive (AWD) is a system by which a vehicle is able to use all four wheels at varying speeds in order to optimize the vehicle’s traction. This means that an all-wheel-drive vehicle is optimized to handle very well on snowy and slippery surfaces. As a matter of fact, many Tesla owners suggest that all-wheel-drive vehicles are absolutely necessary for those who reside in areas that receive frequent snowfall.
It is important to note at this point that all-wheel-drive is not the same as four-wheel-drive. Unlike all-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles are not made to be driven on hard pavement as the four-wheel-drive systems cannot be enabled at all times.
Conversely, all-wheel-drive vehicles are designed for roads specifically. Not only is the AWD system always on, but it is designed to adapt to dry pavement, turns, icy roads, light snow, and slippery surfaces. All-wheel-drive is able to do this by controlling the speed, and hence, traction of each individual wheel.
However, when it comes to driving through deep snow, as opposed to light snow and slippery surfaces, a four-wheel drive is the clear winner. Most four-wheel-drive vehicles have a much higher ground clearance than AWD cars. Moreover, the system operates separately from traction control, meaning that most standard 4WD SUVs can turn off traction control and throw the car into 4H to get the car out of deep snow when it is stuck.
Regenerative Braking Issues for Tesla Performance in Snow
Regenerative braking is a system in which the energy lost by braking a vehicle to slow it down is stored to be reused later. This system is very different from traditional vehicles, which have automatic transmission and provide little resistance to deceleration, as well as traditional manual transmission cars, which the driver can very precisely control.
Conversely, vehicles with regenerative braking slow down automatically and the rate of deceleration cannot be precisely controlled by the driver. While this system does save a lot of otherwise lost energy, it can cause the vehicle to slide quite abruptly when you don’t intend to apply too much pressure to the brake.
Thankfully, however, this won’t be a huge issue anymore, as Tesla vehicles now automatically curb regenerative braking when the temperature falls below a particular point, thereby reducing the possibility of unintentional and abrupt sliding.
However, on relatively warmer days when the road still has a layer of ice, the car might not notice that the road is slippery. Since Tesla vehicles do not allow their drivers to disable regenerative braking, these conditions may cause the car to slide unintentionally over the ice during braking.
Best Tesla for Snow
Finally, we come to the crux of the matter, that is, which Tesla is best for snow. As mentioned, all Tesla vehicles are designed to handle very well in snow due to the traction control and all-wheel-drive systems. However, we will be comparing three Tesla models to find out which of them is the best for driving on snow.
1. Model 3 Tesla
For starters, all-wheel-drive is a standard system in all Model 3 Tesla cars, meaning that drivers of any Model 3 have power over all four wheels when traction becomes an issue on slippery roads. Moreover, like all Tesla cars, the Model 3 maintains a low center of gravity due to the low placement of the battery pack, thereby adding even more stability to the car.
The low profile and advanced traction control systems of Model 3 Tesla cars mean that in the event of traction loss to any of the four wheels, the driver can quickly regain control of the vehicle once more.
2. Model S Tesla
While AWD is available for Model S Tesla cars, it isn’t standard. Regardless, a Model S with AWD is also a great Tesla to drive in the snow. Since the Model S is relatively heavy, the vehicle is reluctant to lose traction with the ground, thereby improving handling in snow. However, this does mean that your stopping distances will be longer and that the driver will need to take greater care when braking on snowy roads.
3. Model Y Tesla
The Model Y is an AWD SUV that has Tesla’s stability and traction control mechanisms in place, making it a top contender for the best Tesla for handling in snow. However, despite the car’s low center of gravity, it has the highest profile of our 3 contenders. This means that the vehicle is more sensitive to wind, which can be enough to destabilize the vehicle on icy roads.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding