How To Drive On Ice, Tesla Model S-Style

Follow Antony

Mention snow and ice in relation to electric vehicles, and many people will first think of the impact of cold weather on driving range.

It's true that driving range will decrease in cold weather in most electric vehicles, but the way the car drives is important too.

For the Tesla Model S driver in the video above, the best way to discover how his vehicle handled was taking it to the ILR Winter Driving School in Minden, Ontario.

Icy surfaces and coned courses let owner Colin Bowern explore his Tesla's limit in total safety--not something that can always be guaranteed out on the roads.

Electric cars in winter: Ultimate guide

The Model S certainly looks graceful out on the ice, even during the occasional spin--but as the interview in the video from shows, there's plenty to learn about driving this particular electric vehicle in snow.

It isn't covered in great detail, but rear-wheel drive is a factor. Traditionally, front-engined, rear-drive cars aren't as well suited to snow due to a lack of traction over the rear axle. This shouldn't be too much issue for the S, which is a relatively heavy vehicle anyway with plenty of weight to push down on the trear tires--but a little too much gas and the car can quickly spin, as seen in the video.

The car's regenerative braking is discussed though. Typically, any braking movement on snow and ice should be as gentle as possible, to avoid upsetting a car's balance.

Some electric vehicles have significant regenerative braking power. If used without care, the sudden braking effect can be akin to stomping on the brake pedal. On the rear-drive Tesla, it made the car go "squirrelly" when backing off, encouraging the rear of the car to rotate.

Electric cars in winter: Six steps to maximize driving range

The good news is, it's an issue that can be solved fairly easy--owner Bowern simply turns down the regenerative effect via the car's touchscreen controls.

He also mentions that a dedicated winter traction control mode will be available soon from Tesla, tailoring the electric motor's torque for better traction on snow and ice.

And, as with any vehicle, fitment of winter tires during the colder seasons will give owners of any electric vehicle a better chance of staying on the road.

But perhaps the best quote is that Bowern said driving his Model S makes him a better driver--since he naturally leaves more space between vehicles, drives more smoothly and avoids braking too hard--all techniques that help conserve energy, as well as improving winter driving.

Best way to drive an electric car on ice? Fix the nut behind the wheel...

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Us

Comments (11)
  1. "Best way to drive an electric car on ice? Fix the nut behind the wheel..."

    Ummm.. Isn't that the BEST way to safely drive ANY vehicle in ANY road condition? (Although I'm of the mindset: "Make anything idiot-proof and they just build better idiots!" ;-) )

  2. That was the point I was trying to make: there is nothing special about an EV when it comes to efficient driving -- the feedback systems and inability to instantly recharge in minutes will tend to make you more aware of good driving practices.

  3. Well, with the electrical powertrain, the controls can be magnitude more refined than a typical mechanical system. That will improve traction and control with a faster response time.

    But I agree the ultimate responsibility rests with the driver.

  4. "He also mentions that a dedicated winter traction control mode will be available soon from Tesla, tailoring the electric motor's torque for better traction on snow and ice"

    Is he implying that the current "traction control" on the Tesla S isn't capable of handling snow and ice? Or is the current traction control NOT "optimized" for snow and ice?

    Ideally speaking, if it is a properly designed tractional control, it should be working for any/all conditions. Unless you need it off for some special occasions...

  5. What Tesla should do, is make a winter driving mode which has good traction control for acceleration as was mentioned here, but also gentler accelerator pedal mapping (like ECO mode in the Leaf) and better regen traction control. I remember when they were developing the regen traction control for the Roadster and tweaking it to not spin out on pedal lift-off. The winter mode should just be extra sensitive.

  6. Tractional control should "naturally" reduce accelerator pedal mapping when traction loss is detected and cut power to the tire. Being electric, that process can be "infinitely" more refined than an ICE car. Also, regen should always be coupled to the tractional control in my opinion for best possible traction regardless of condition.

  7. With Tesla's ability to push software updates I'm sure we will see a lot of tuning of the car over the next 12 months now that there is real data coming in from a variety of drivers in the full range of conditions.

  8. Old Tesla blog on the subject:

  9. A few clarifications - I'm suggesting that there has been rumour based on discussions in the forum that a winter traction control mode is under consideration. I leave it on almost all the time -- except when faced with an steep hill with freshly fallen snow. In that case I turn regen breaking turned down and traction off to maintain constant speed to make it up the hill.

  10. So does anyone know what happened to the "big announcement" which was supposed to happen on Thursday? Of course the right is screaming he tweeted just to bump up the stock price - but I have to admit the deafening silence is very weird. Elon should have at least just made something up... flying cars?

  11. @Eric: Musk subsequently tweeted that the announcement would be postponed until next week, after several articles that questioned whether he was running afoul of SEC regulations about companies releasing information under certain circumstances.

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.