Tesla has faced a number of challenges in the public relations sphere over the past few years. It’s dealt with backlash because of the actions of its mercurial CEO Elon Musk and technical issues with its self-driving car that have led to multiple deaths.
But this last week, Tesla owners and stakeholders faced a new challenge — cold air.
According to a report by The New York Times, Tesla drivers across Chicagoland struggled not only to get their cars properly charged but even getting the frozen doors open.
One driver had to chisel away ice to get in their vehicle and found that their battery had been drained to nearly a third of its capacity in the cold weather.
“It’s kind of like, I don’t really want a Tesla,” she told the Times.
While Tesla’s batteries aren’t the only electric car power sources that can be drained in the cold, scenes of lines for charging points and drivers needing to call tow trucks because their pricey electric vehicles wouldn’t start on a cold day points to a less than stellar look for the world’s most popular EV maker.
Why it matters: Musk’s personality and issues with engaging in the public sphere aside, this is a big deal for a few reasons. First, Teslas are a big investment for their owners. With the lowest-priced Tesla starting at prices in the $45,000 range, drivers should feel confident that their car is going to start, regardless of what it’s like outside. Granted, even internal combustion engines can struggle in the cold, but more is expected of the newer, pricier technology.
Tesla does provide some guidance for drivers in cold weather though — the company says that taking steps like defrosting the car and conditioning the battery can make driving more reliable.
Now, not all Tesla drivers live in climates where they’re fighting blizzard-like conditions to drive. However, the fact that Tesla has guidance for these conditions shows that the company is aware of the issues. Will these public stories of people fighting their Teslas to charge and start in a Chicago snowstorm lead to a dip in sales? Purchasers are already wary of problems related to low range for EVs. This is likely to provide another obstacle that could have others looking to good old-fashioned gasoline.
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Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communcations.