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Tesla's Having Issues Charging In the Cold 476

Posted by timothy
from the my-suggestion-is-a-friction-loaded-crank dept.
cartechboy writes "It's winter, and apparently meteorologists have just discovered the term Polar Vortex, as that seems to be the only thing they can talk about these days. But seriously, it's cold, and apparently the darling child of the automotive industry, the new Tesla Model S electric car, is having issues charging in the cold weather. It's being reported that the charging cables that come with the car are unable to provide a charge when the temperature dips below zero. As you can imagine, this is an issue in a country like Norway where the Model S is one of the most popular cars. In fact, it seems this issue has already left one Model S owner stranded with a dead battery nearly 100 miles from the nearest charging station. Other owners are reporting issues charging. Tesla's European sales chief Peter Bardenfleth-Hansen apologized for he inconvenience owners are facing, and said it's 'trying hard to resolve' the issue. Apparently the issues are simply down to the differences in the Norwegian network as Norway uses a slightly different charging adapter than other countries in Europe."
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Tesla's Having Issues Charging In the Cold

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  • units please (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ziggyzaggy (552814) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @02:40PM (#46092691)
    "below zero' Kelvin? (is that you, Frank Herbert?) Centigrade? Farenheit?
    • Re:units please (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sabri (584428) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @02:45PM (#46092767)

      "below zero' Kelvin? (is that you, Frank Herbert?) Centigrade? Farenheit?

      Considering it's Europe and the fact that water freezes at 0 Celsius, my guess would be C.

    • Below zero is a turn of phrase that means freezing, so 0C.

      You also could have looked it up:
      "Liion batteries offer reasonably good charging performance at cooler temperatures and allow fast-charging in a temperature bandwidth of 5 to 45 C (41 to 113 F). Charging should be performed within this temperature range. Below 5 C, the charge current should be reduced, and no charging is permitted at freezing temperatures" from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

      So again, 0C

      • "Below zero is a turn of phrase that means freezing, so 0C."

        Just no. "Below zero" is a turn of phrase that means "below zero". It is used as much in the United States to mean below 32F as it is elsewhere to mean 0C.

        • by cs668 (89484)

          In MM when someone says "below zero" it means below 0F. Not sure what it commonly means in the rest of the US though.

        • Apologies. Typed too fast. I meant "It is used in the United States to mean below 0F (-17.8C), just as much as it is elsewhere to mean below 0C."

          The point being that the phrase "below zero" means just that... the units you use are irrelevant.
    • "below zero' Kelvin? (is that you, Frank Herbert?) Centigrade? Farenheit?

      FRANK: Is that you Leto, or has the Kumquat Haagen Dazs finally arrived?

    • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:07PM (#46093019)

      Centigrade? Farenheit?

      Sometimes it doesn't matter. From Futurama [wikipedia.org]:

      • Leela: Our car broke down and we're low on oxygen. Can we borrow some?
      • Moon Farmer: Borry? Listen here, city girl. Oxygen doesn't grow on trees. You'll have to work it off doing chores on my hydroponic farm. You can go back to your precious park at sun-up.
      • Fry: I guess we can do chores for a few hours.
      • Leela: Fry, night lasts two weeks on the moon.
      • Moon Farmer: Yep, drops down to minus-173.
      • Fry: Celsius or Fahrenheit?
      • Moon Farmer: First one, then the other.
      • Re:units please (Score:5, Informative)

        by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @04:22PM (#46093925)

        In fact, it seems this issue has already left one Model S owner stranded with a dead battery nearly 100 miles from the nearest charging station.

        Your quote from Futurama is amusing, but there's something even more amusing, or sad, depending on how you look at it. It's that one dude's car died, and somehow this is a reflection on the entire model line? I live in Minnesota, in the coldest major city by average temperature and up here, every cold snap results in thousands of dead batteries. The number one call out for tow truck companies out here isn't a flat tire but a dead battery. And simple physics provide plenty of explanation for why this is; Yet somehow, out of the thousands of cars that wouldn't start (to the point that it's a running joke: "Come for the low unemployment rate and good schools, stay because your car won't start")... one dude got selected and they say his electric car is somehow defective because of this?

        Dude... if ONE car dies during a cold snap out of the entire model line, that's not a problem, that's an engineering success up here of epic proportions when it comes to cars. Maybe you've heard about our roads? We only have two seaons: Winter and road construction. Believe me... if a line of cars can survive up here and only one of them goes tits up in the cold, then someone's doing it right.

    • by tgd (2822)

      "below zero'

      Kelvin? (is that you, Frank Herbert?)
      Centigrade?
      Farenheit?

      Does it matter, relative to the story?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ziggyzaggy (552814)
        yes, many people in the world would be much more concerned about electric car with 32 degree F problem versus one that appears at 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C) Since the problem appears at 0 degrees C, that isn't very cold at all. It was -26 degrees C last night here
    • 'below zero' Kelvin?

      Winter

      In winter much of Norway is usually transformed into a snow-clad paradise.

      The lower inland areas, both in the southern and northern parts of Norway, can have very low mean temperatures in winter. Temperatures can reach below -40 F/-40 C in the inner areas of Finnmark, Troms, Trondelag and Eastern Norway, even if this does not happen each winter.

      By contrast, the coastal areas have comparatively mild winters. However, gales, rain and clouds can be frequent and heavy.

      Seasons and climate in Norway [visitnorway.com]

      It doesn't matter whether you measure temperature in degrees Fahrenheit or Centigrade. What matters is whether you can keep your Tesla on the road through a Nordic winter.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @02:42PM (#46092721) Homepage Journal

    People disincentivized into buying electric cars, increasing CO2 emissions, raising planetary temperatures until electric cars work.

    • People disincentivized into buying electric cars, increasing CO2 emissions, raising planetary temperatures until electric cars work.

      Is that how Dick Cheney logic works?

    • by Talderas (1212466)

      But then temperatures rise, electric cars become prevalent and then temperatures drop and they cease working. Then we have to break out all the gas powered cars until the temperature rises enough that electric works again.

      • Since we're pretending this isn't just a joke:

        I think you're overestimating the rate at which life on the planet can consume atmospheric carbon dioxide. It's actually quite slow, compared to which burning fossil fuels can put it out.

  • by hubang (692671) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @02:47PM (#46092791)
    I'd think the batteries would be the problem. Running serious current through the wires should keep them warm even in cold weather. Plus, conductivity should go up with colder temperature.

    Now the batteries on the other hand.... Batteries don't hold charge very well in the cold. It's been one of the two big problems for electric cars since the 19th century.
    • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@corne[ ]edu ['ll.' in gap]> on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @02:55PM (#46092921) Homepage

      Thing is, a number of people have indicated that they have used third-party cables and those have solved the issue.

      • Thing is, a number of people have indicated that they have used third-party cables and those have solved the issue.

        Does using a third-party cable void the warranty, or violate the EULA?

        Funky cold Medina, did I just say "violate the EULA" when talking about a fucking car? That is kind of depressing...

      • by sribe (304414) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:35PM (#46093403)

        Thing is, a number of people have indicated that they have used third-party cables and those have solved the issue.

        So it's obviously that the skin-effect electrons are out of phase with the ones in the middle, or that the wire is in the cable backward because, as everybody knows, the electrons flow through wire more easily in the same direction in which the wire was extruded. And that, of course, is why Monster brand charging cables would solve the problems ;-)

    • by Luckyo (1726890)

      As I understand the chemistry, they do in fact hold the charge just fine. They just become unable to release it as well. Easily demonstrable with a cell phone using similar Li-ION tech - take it outside and let to go to minus 20C and you'll see the charge indicator go low after usage that would normally only use about half of the charge in normal condition. Get it back inside and let it warm up and charge indicator goes back up to show the about half of the charge that remains.

      I live in Finland and use one

      • by ari_j (90255)

        This has always been my concern with electric cars. Batteries do not work well in the cold. I live in the part of the USA where Norwegians settled because it reminded them of home. Except we were having a heat wave at the time, and now it's colder. A warm gasoline or diesel engine will generally keep running no matter how cold it gets, so by the time you are any distance from the safety of your home, you have the safety of a running car with a working heater until you run out of fuel (assuming you have not

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          Actually this has been a concern with ALL cars. ICE cars don't work all that well in cold either. Ranging from cars refusing to start, lead batteries dying out and not supplying power to starter, fuel lines freezing, fuel filters failing, computer systems dying from condencation/corrosion damage and a vast multitude of over issues, northern climate proves a massive challenge to automotive industry even today. Not to even mention the whole "diesels don't work in the cold" issue we had until very recent times

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Now the batteries on the other hand.... Batteries don't hold charge very well in the cold. It's been one of the two big problems for electric cars since the 19th century.

      Actually, batteries tend to hold charge very well when cold. Cool/cold and dry is typically the recommended (below freezing or not varies).
      The problem is that they aren't very willing to let go of, or accept new, charge when cold - just as most any chemical process slow down when it's cold. This makes it hard to draw current to run the car or to charge the batteries back up.

    • Looking a little deeper than the summary (or really the linked articles for that matter). It appears to not really have much of anything to do with the cold. According to Tesla it has to do with the charging system having difficulties interfacing with the Norwegian electric grid--which is evidently different from the rest of Europe and North America. These difficulties have apparently been on going for a while now. The problem just happened to make headlines since it's all nice and cold now and people a

    • by NewWorldDan (899800) <dan@gen-tracker.com> on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @04:30PM (#46094035) Homepage Journal

      Electricity is a funny thing. Had a problem with a piece of electronics that we make. The CPU wouldn't boot up if it was colder than about 20F. It turns out that the CPU has an internal voltage regulator that relies on an external capacitor. My engineer used an electrolytic cap, and at around 20F, the series resistance of the cap exceeded the tolerances of the CPU's voltage regulator and it went into a perpetual brown-out reset. Now, if the chip was up and running, it was happy and kept running, even if it got cold. So it's fixed now, but for some older hardware in the field with the problem, we don't send firmware updates between December and March. That's just one of many bits of stupid we've encountered over the years. In short, every piece of electronics you develop needs to be tested in the most absurd conditions you can find. And even that won't be enough. Never underestimate the creative stupidity of your customers.

  • Apparently the issues are simply down to the differences in the Norwegian network as Norway uses a slightly different charging adapter than other countries in Europe.

    There is a right way, a wrong way, and a Norwegian way. --Edgar Hansen, Northwestern, Deadliest Catch

  • by kaliann (1316559) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @02:51PM (#46092855)

    Yes, it's related to the cold, but it also appears to be related to the specific issues of Norway's grid.

    Some speculation is that the problem involves too-extreme fluctuations in the electricity provided by that grid and a charger-side software-mediated shutoff of charging. If that's the case, then this might be another charger issue that can be solved with an over-the-air "patch" like some of the previous problems.

    While this is definitely a concern for Tesla and their Norwegian customers, it doesn't seem to be relevant to cars in North America.

    • by TyFoN (12980)

      We have standard european 230V grid.
      I've never had issues with anything using an european plug.
      My guess is the cold. It's been bad lately.

      Another thing is the number of teslas here. I see them _everywhere_.
      With my Toyota I had to pay $25000 as a one time tax, yearly taxes, road tolls, gas at $9/gallon.

      The tesla and other electrics are completely tax free. Not even VAT. No yearly taxes. You pass for free in the toll roads, and electricity is about 16 cents/kWh.
      I could also drive past the traffic in the bus l

  • by Terko (813598) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @02:52PM (#46092869)
    Then we'll have to go out on Tauntauns
  • Nope, no bias in the summary at all. I couldn't possibly imagine anything other than a "just the facts" linked article.
    • by jfengel (409917)

      Actually, the linked article is considerably better. The headline of TFA is more accurate: "Tesla Grapples With Charging-Cable Troubles In Norwegian Cold".

      The article came to prominence via the New York Times, who published that rather scurrilous piece last year on Tesla, but this was a different writer and the Times' summary of it is reasonably neutral.

  • by sandbagger (654585) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @02:54PM (#46092905)

    Weird, eh?

    I used to work in Northern Canada where all the US and some of the European manufacturers used to do cold weather testing. (The toolsets and options differ in North America which is why separate testing was done for Europe.) The Asian manufacturers were also doing cold testing there but their labs and warehouses ended up with all of the crappy real estate.

    Did anyone seriously think the cold wouldn't be an issue? People need to get out of California and see what the rest of the world is like.

    • by Luckyo (1726890)

      As noted in the OP, the issue is not so much the battery tech but the Norway-specific cable that doesn't work. It charges in cold weather in other countries using different cables and it charges in Norway using a third party cable. But first party cable in Norway is apparently dysfunctional in the cold.

      Reason given is that Norway has a different spec for the cable for specific local reasons.

    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:10PM (#46093095) Homepage Journal

      Did anyone seriously think the cold wouldn't be an issue? People need to get out of California and see what the rest of the world is like.

      Merely pointing out that a world exists outside California is enough to blow a fair amount of minds, I'm afraid.

      Even worse, you can extrapolate that to include, "outside 'Murica" for a large portion of the populace.

      • by PRMan (959735)
        This is even more true in other countries. When I was in New Zealand, I couldn't find a single person that had even been to the other island! Many had never left the area around their major city. Most Californians have at least been to Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. A fair number have been to Mexico (before it got "too dangerous") and about half the middle-class to wealthy families I know have at least flown to Hawaii once.
        • by Cimexus (1355033)

          Hmmmm...

          I suppose as an Aussie I should look for any opportunity to put the boot into our mates across the Tasman...but I feel that I have to stand up for them here. While I can't offer any solid evidence either way, your statement immediately triggers my "that doesn't sound right" sense. I haven't spent a huge amount of time in NZ myself (about a month), but I feel that in their travel habits they are similar to Australians, who are huge travellers (both within Australia and overseas). 70-75% of adult Aust

  • This is like saying a car is bad because the gas hose does not fit when it gets cold.
    It is not an issue with the car.

    And "dips below zero" would be a poor threshold.
    We have windshield washer fluid that is rated to -50C (-58F) for a good reason.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      This is like saying a car is bad because the gas hose does not fit when it gets cold.
      It is not an issue with the car.

      That's like saying that when a 3D game won't run because they rely on driver bugs which don't exist in our driver, it's the game's problem. That might well be true, but everyone using our GPU will blame it on us.

      Similarly, no-one will care whether it's 'the cable's fault' when they're stranded in the middle of nowhere at 40 below zero and unable to recharge their car.

  • Meteorologists (Score:5, Insightful)

    by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @02:59PM (#46092971) Journal

    apparently meteorologists have just discovered the term Polar Vortex

    No, meteorologists have understood the term Polar Vortex for decades. Weathermen, newscasters, and ratings-minded producers have only just discovered the term.

    • apparently meteorologists have just discovered the term Polar Vortex

      No, meteorologists have understood the term Polar Vortex for decades. Weathermen, newscasters, and ratings-minded producers have only just discovered the term.

      It gives the MSM a way to explain extreme cold that can be attributed to Global Warming.

    • Re:Meteorologists (Score:4, Interesting)

      by geogob (569250) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:34PM (#46093401)

      Indeed. Working with a meteorology research center that has been studying the polar vortex year after year for many decades, I find that remark in TFS quite out of place.

      News meteorologist are quite fond of playing with hype... Just wait until one "figures out" that there is a link between the polar vortex and the ozone hole *gasp*

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:00PM (#46092977)

    apparently the darling child of the automotive industry

    What's with the snide side commentary? Tesla isn't the "darling" of anyone. Snide, obnoxious comments like this are pretty much du jour in any coverage. Everyone's gunning for them, simply because they're odd kid on the block.

    A Tesla catches fire after hitting a piece of massive road debris or getiting into a crash, and it's a fucking national emergency, their stock tanks, electric cars are suddenly "unsafe", etc.

    Meanwhile: do you drive a Ford SUV made in the 90's? Twice, Ford weakened the roof and support pillars to save money, against the recommendation of their engineers.

    Drive a 90's Ford? Their ignition switches were substandard and could short out, causing your car to catch fire at random. 8.6 million vehicles: http://articles.baltimoresun.c... [baltimoresun.com]

    Drive a recent GM truck? They've also got a "randomly burst into fire" problem; 370,000 vehicles: http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/1... [cnn.com]

    Just google "GM recall fire" or "Ford recall fire" and read page after page of recalls that affect hundreds of thousands if not millions of vehicles.

  • ...the charging cables that come with the car are unable to provide a charge when the temperature dips below zero.

    Um, Dear Editors (Slashdot and Green Car Reports), The "cables" can't provide a charge?

  • Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by xplosiv (129880) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:15PM (#46093143)

    What's next, are we going to post about a gasoline car not starting (am actually trying to help someone jumpstart their ICE right now, maybe I can get featured too)?

    Anyways, just last week, someone made the trip from NYC to LA [chargeny.com] in his Tesla Model S, seen temps in the -20F range, and the car was just fine. I'm driving my EV in these same temps, no issues either (ignoring the lower range).

    This is not a battery issue as some people seem to indicate.

  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:18PM (#46093187)

    I'd advise Slashdot readers to take their typical tack, and not read the linked articles. They are crap. However (again, much like Slashdot), the comments can be enlightening.

    What I'm seeing there is:

    a) This is not about the cold, or winter at all. Its been a problem since they started delivering vehicles in August.

    b) Due to all the bad press (from poor journalists such as these) over fires from improperly overcharged batteries, Tesla charging cables now try to detect when a battery is fully-charged and stop the charging process.

    c) They do this by looking for changes in the current flow through them.

    d) Norway's power grid is so dirty that it is fooling the cables. That's the issue, near as I can tell.

    • BS Summary anyway (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DarthVain (724186) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:50PM (#46093563)

      Some example of a guy stuck 100 miles away from a charging station as a result... AWAY.

      If it was a charging issue, then shouldn't he still be at the charging station? If his voltage meter? was indicating the wrong amount, this has nothing to do with the charging station. If it was reading correctly as "low" and he opted to drive 100 miles into the middle of nowhere isn't that the fault of a stupid driver?

      Anyway I think you summarized all the points, but I am still left wondering why (how) that left a man stranded 100 miles from a charging station...

    • I'd advise Slashdot readers to take their typical tack, and not read the linked articles. They are crap. However (again, much like Slashdot), the comments can be enlightening.

      What I'm seeing there is: .....

      d) Norway's power grid is so dirty that it is fooling the cables. That's the issue, near as I can tell.

      The power grid is not dirty, but uses a different system with no neutral wire and the voltage will therefore be floating with respect to earth. Tesla cables detect this as an earth-fault and disconnect.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:22PM (#46093233)

    FTFA: "The issues are simply down to differences in the Norwegian network that Tesla has not experienced elsewhere"

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      FTFA: "The issues are simply down to differences in the Norwegian network that Tesla has not experienced elsewhere"

      So, when my software doesn't work in Norway, I can just say 'the issues are simply down to differences in Norway that we've not experienced elsewhere', and everyone will be happy?

      No, didn't think so.

  • by shadowrat (1069614) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:23PM (#46093251)
    good old gas and diesel cars always work when it's below freezing.
    • Not always, gas and desil cars have had problems over the years requiring multi-viscosity oils (W winter rating), additives to diesel to prevent gelling, batteries with cold crank amp ratings and engine block heaters. Many decades of R+D has help iron out the issues with gas and diesel cars in very cold weather and yet people still have cold morning start issues when the car is no longer in top condition. you could argue instead that with a hundred years of issues we should have stuck with the horse.....
  • Norwegian Issue (Score:5, Informative)

    by smack.addict (116174) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:28PM (#46093325)

    I am in the middle of the polar vortex (-13F today) and haven't been having any issues charging my Tesla. I also haven't heard of anyone else in MN having charging issues. This really appears to be a Norwegian issue moreso than a general Tesla + cold issue.

    • As a side note, the battery on my wife's BMW is reporting issues and she's having to leave it running :)

      Gas cars have batteries too!

      Summary: Tesla doing fine in the cold, BMW having issues

  • by HellCatF6 (1824178) <HellCatF6@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @04:05PM (#46093761) Homepage

    Here's a must see link for us weather nerds...

    http://earth.nullschool.net/ [nullschool.net]

    make sure to tune into the 10 hPa setting and watch the polar vortex do its thing.

    Thank you supercomputer...

  • by Radical Moderate (563286) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @04:55PM (#46094305)
    Let's see...Norway has a crappy grid that's giving Teslas problems, it's cold in Norway, so let's title this "Teslas Having Issues Charging in the Cold". Journalistic ethics, how do they work?

    Look, I think Elon Musk is a jerk, I'll probably never own a Tesla, but the Tesla-bashing hype is getting old. And stupid.

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