Tesla Model Y battles cold temperature range losses with a heat pump

It's the first time Tesla has used a heat pump to boost efficiency when the weather turns cold.

Ranges should stay at higher levels with a trusty heat pump going.

Electric vehicles often have one big downside to them: their range suffers when temperatures turn cold. It's a well-known issue, as the battery uses its energy to create heat for the cabin, which leads to lower overall driving ranges.

While this heating practice, called resistive heating, is totally efficient on paper, there's a better way to handle it. That's where a heat pump comes in, and Tesla Model Y owners will be the first Tesla owners to experience the system. As owners continue to take delivery of their new Model Y SUVs, more information continues to trickle out and we learned of the heat pump in the electric SUV's owner's manual, which is now available online.

In the manual, Tesla explicitly describes a heat pump as part of the HVAC system. A heat pump simply pumps air from one part of the car to another when needed. So, after accruing heat in one area, this air travels through a heat exchanger and the warmth parks in a separate heat exchanger. The climate system sucks the warmth in and blows it into the cabin to keep passengers toasty.

Tesla might be using heat from the Model Y's front motor, as the owner's manual has the heat pump in pretty close proximity to it, but it's not totally clear. Tesla didn't immediately return a request for comment.

Owners might hear the air conditioner's compressor and fan run even when it's cold outside, but it's no cause for alarm -- it's just the heat pump and associated systems doing its job. The Model Y Performance already boasts a pretty stellar EPA-estimated range rating of 315 miles per charge, but the heat pump should be a welcome addition to owners driving in colder temperatures.

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First published March 16.