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What is Battery Preconditioning?

We are smack dab in the middle of winter, and at least from where I’m from, temps of around 0 ( 32F) sound like a dream. It’s been really cold. No thanks to the weather, here is why Battery Preconditioning is important.

If you are an EV owner, you probably already know what this cold weather means for your range. You’ve lost a bunch. That distance to empty is a lot less than it was back in those beautiful summer days.

So how do we handle these low temps and keep our cars as efficient as possible? Preconditioning your battery will help to maximize range and shorten charging times.

Preconditioning is the act of warming up your EV battery pack to a suitable temperature so that it can be charged quickly and safely.

Preconditioning before charging

The point of preconditioning is to raise the temperature of your battery to a suitable temperature prior to charging. Preconditioning is good practice before charging your car in extremely cold weather or getting your battery ready for Supercharging if you own a Tesla.

How does preconditioning help when charging in the cold winter months? let’s take a look.

Why Use Battery Preconditioning?

When charging your Tesla battery when it’s below freezing and you don’t precondition your battery, your  Tesla will limit features such as regen. braking, maximum charge rate, and charging speeds.

When your battery is cold, trying to charge at too high of a rate can permanently damage your batteries, luckily there are safeguards built in to prevent this. Even luckier, you can precondition your battery pack ahead of time to prepare for quick charging. What this feature does is heat your battery pack to a level above freezing where it is able to accept a full amperage charge.

I have a Tesla, how do I Activate Preconditioning?

If the temperature of your car is close to freezing you will see an icon appear in the climate control section of your Tesla App, click this icon and it will begin preconditioning your battery

Ideally, keep your Tesla plugged in when temperatures are around freezing. An hour prior to charging, turn on preconditioning. This will warm the battery to an appropriate level before your car starts charging. 

Preconditioning Good and Bad

Good

  • Keeps your battery safe from charging a cold battery
  • Gives you a toasty warm the cabin while the battery is being warmed
  • Increase range,  and allows for regenerative braking which is disabled when the battery is too cold

Bad

  • Preconditioning uses electricity to warm the battery and none of that electricity goes to the battery.
  • You need to plan for the cold days and precondition your battery an hour prior to charging

Won’t my car precondition my battery for me? What is this, 2019?

Ya, okay, If you have a Tesla, you have Smart-Preconditioning. What this does is warm your batteries up prior to driving or charging based on your previous driving habits.

Imagine you leave for work at 8 am every day. Smart-Preconditioning will adjust to start warming your batteries prior to charging and then top it up to get you out the door with a full charge and no loss of functionality.

I personally haven’t found it to be 100% perfect., I need to keep an eye on it, but overall It works pretty well.

How do I Activate Smart-Preconditioning?

Go into ‘Settings’ on your Tesla app, then to ‘Vehicle’ then toggle “Smart Preconditioning’ on.

What else can I do?

Preconditioning your battery is a best practice in the cold weather months, but further to that, you can also use some other built-in features.

Scheduled-Departure

Scheduled Departure, this allows you to configure how you would like your Tesla charged, warmed up and ready to go at a specific time, either once or weekly. You to set your maximum charge level prior to your next day’s driving. It will bring your Tesla battery and interior up to an optimal temperature before charging and driving. This works well and I used to use it all the time. But since I’m writing this at the tail end of “Lockdown” ( I hope)  My car spent way too much time getting ready to take me somewhere even though I spent the whole day in my pajamas, because of that, I’d turned my schedule off for a while.

Mind where you park

My wife gets to the garage, while I suffer outside. If you can park indoors this can go a long way to keeping your batteries at a decent temperature. Crazy as it sounds I noticed that when I parked on the other side of my drive away from the trees, the sun alone, even on a cold day helped bring up the batteries even a few degrees and reduced the time I spent warming them up. It’s free, why not?

Take it easy

Losing range stinks, so when the car is cold, it’s a great time to put on Chill Mode. It’s not like you’re trying to warm up an engine. Go easy on the car and see if you can make up a little of that lost range! I’ve got some tips here to help you get the most out of your battery. 10 Tips

Also, if you want to know if you should warm up your car before setting off check out this post HERE.