Sliding around in Teslas at the company's Alaska proving ground
Electric cars have earned a bad reputation for being terrible in the winter.
When the temperatures drop they can lose upwards of 30% of their range.
And all the weight from all those batteries means they tend to be pretty poor to drive in the snow too.
Teslas in particular have earned a bad rep.
California's most famous electric car startup Is perceived as building California cars that is to say machines that need to pack an extra sweater at the first hint to the morning chill.
And so a lot of people in more extreme latitudes feel like they need to buy a car like this.
A big old gas goes on four by four.
We've cover north to show you that there might be another way.
Welcome to Tesla's Alaska [UNKNOWN] grounds where we're gonna give you an exclusive look at some of the tests that Tesla engineers put their production car through to make sure they're ready for the winner.
Cars like the Model 3 like this dual motor here The Model S like this P100D and of course the Model X with big silly doors.
We'll start with the big guy, we better get rolling we only have four hours of daylight.
Tesla's testing facility is located out in the middle of the state, a solid two hours from the fair banks headed in the general direction of Well nothing much in particular.
This area is also where the military performs cold weather testing of much of its hardware.
And the condition of this time of year are no joke.
Tesla engineers have at their disposal a massive test loop complete with numerous [UNKNOWN] of ice, a giant slippery skidpad, [UNKNOWN] snow fields, handling courses and Some steeper stuff too.
Our first test of the day is a hill, and that may not sound like much.
But this is a very steep hill.
30%, which is about as steep as your ever gonna find in the real world.
But to make it more difficult we've got a strip of ice down the middle.
And I'm gonna try to drive the car with one set of wheels on the ice and the other set of wheels off the ice.
And finally, we've turned off all the software assist in the model X here to see just what this car does in its raw state.
I've said that you can only get two of the developer, it plugs a laptop into a port right there.
So here we go.
We gonna give it a bit of a running start to give the car more of a chance.
I've got my foot to the floor I can here the tire spinning.
[LAUGH] We're not going forward.
We're going backwards.
Now that didn't work, and the reason it didn't work because the Model X, like a lot of cars, has what's called an open differential.
I can spend an hour explaining what that means.
But suffice to say a differential transfers power from the left side of the car to the right side of the car.
And in normal conditions, they work really well.
However in a low grip situation like this an open differential actually would just spin up the wheel that's sitting on the ice that's exactly what just happened.
To defeat that you've got to turn the software back on.
All right we're in the same model X with the same hill with the same ice in front of us the only difference is we've turned on all the software assistance systems.
Now we're gonna see what happens.
And it goes pretty much right an alp.
Now again nothing's changed in the hardware, we had the same open differentials front and rear connected to those electric motors.
So why was that so easy?
Well now this ultra is using braking to basically slow down the wheel that's spinning transferring power over to the wheel with grip, allowing us to get up the hill.
That made that a whole lot easier than it was before.
This trick of using the brake to overcome the primary disadvantage of open differentials is hardly marvel to Tesla.
[UNKNOWN] and plenty of others have been doing it forever but it's always impressive to see just how effective and it can be.
And how hopeless open differentials are on the ice when left to their own devices.
All right, we've shifted over to the model s For our next test, because we're gonna have to go a little bit quicker this time.
Now we're gonna do an emergency lane change on the snow.
We've again turned everything off on the car.
All the nannies.
All the safety systems have been killed in developer mode.
Okay, we're entering onto the snow now.
And we're going about 65 and no, a moose.
Okay, well I caught it, but it was.
Okay, I didn't catch it.
I thought I caught it.
[LAUGH] What happened there is what you might call a tank slapper.
The quick steering one way upset the car so much that when I countered and caught the slide, The weight transfer center swinging back in the other direction that then results in a frantic bit of shuffling left and right to try to keep the car under control.
We ran this test multiple times and I did indeed catch it a couple of times but it's the kind of event that would likely send your average model s driver spiralling into the wilderness.
Thankfully your average model S driver will never experience this.
The stability control system on the model S which cannot normally be turned off will actively cut power and apply brakes to individual wheels keeping everything in line.
Okay we've reset the car we've got everything turned back on we're gonna try that one more time.
I can already feel the traction control throttling back the power as I enter the snow here but we're gonna still get up to 65 just like before and watch out for that moose and And wow.
Well that was kind of boring, but ultimately if you were on a highway covered in snow and a Moose jumped out in front of you and threatened to bite your sister, you'd kind of want the situation to be a little bit boring and ultimately nice and safe and controlled.
But if you wanna have a little bit more fun, maybe you want things to feel a little bit less in control.
And for that.
We're gonna change cars one more time.
We are in the model three performance now and we are on what is basically a snow and ice circle like a big old skid pad with a lot of freshly groomed snow, some [INAUDIBLE] That I'm gonna go out and make a big mess on.
We're gonna start In normal mode with all the traction and safety controls and everything else left on.
Because I was told by the Tesla engineers of the car that should be a lot more fun to drive than the model S or the model X even with everything on.
And sure enough.
They does allow the tail to come out.
But as soon as it gets too far out, maybe something like 15 or 20 degrees, I can definitely feel that point of power starts to shift, the brakes come on.
It's basically breaking the outside wheels to try to bring the car around and bring the nose around to enable things to stay in control.
So even if I'm doing something stupid like turning the wheel over The car won't spin, it just slows down [UNKNOWN] my power and keeps me safe.
But [LAUGH] [UNKNOWN] still have a good time.
And that's very different in the model s which pretty much immediately just cut all the power and make sure that you stay [UNKNOWN] But the beauty of the model three performance that you don't need an engineer with a laptop To have a little bit more fun, all we need to do.
Go into the car settings, tap the little button that said track mode and now.
I could already that I've got a lot more power at my disposal, before it would cut the power very early to keep any wheel spin from going out but now I can go much too quickly and Much, much, much more sideways.
Now in order to get the way out of line here, I can still feel that the systems are kicking in the help me keep the car in control.
But there's a big, big envelope for me to play with so that I can still have the time to do what I know I need to do to bring the car back into control.
And it's only when things go Really sideways then I get a little bit of help so if the car starts to understeer for example I can lift off the throttle a little bit get a bit more weight on the nose and the car comes right around.
Of course give it a lot of counter steer here keep the tail in line too.
This is really good fun but I still have that safety blanket to keep me safe should I do something really stupid.
[LAUGH] And now we are on what the engineers here call the quarries, basically a tight handling course with a lot of dips and crests and ups and downs and tight turns.
Which is a really good test Form the acura torque vectoring in the Model 3, with track mode on.
The car can really quickly shift torque from front to rear and basically give you all the response you want up front or out back.
[LAUGH] To give you everything you need to do with a nice little pendulum turn like that.
It's got more responsiveness than any other all wheel drive car.
On the road, really, because there's no differential that you need to worry about, clutch plates, or a viscous center diff, or anything like that that needs to adjust.
Basically they can adjust as much power to the front or to the rear as they want, pretty much instantaneously.
And as a bit of a differential nerd as I am, [LAUGH] the potential here makes me pretty excited for something like ice racing, where you really need a lot of Quick power shifts to be able to get the card and do what you want it to do when you want it to do it.
And this is such good fun I cannot begin to tell you now granted this is the kind of thing that your average model three owners going to do.
But it sure is good to know that you can.
And again I can still feel the car doing some work to help me.
It's still doing some breaking across the axles to help the car pivot.
And it's still doing some work to help again to make sure that I'm keeping in control and not getting too far out of the line.
But again it's letting me do what I want to do, and the car is doing what I want it to do.
And that is beautiful.
To [UNKNOWN] To be totally [UNKNOWN] I had no idea what to expect coming out here.
I didn't even know this place existed until a couple of weeks ago.
But at the end of the day I am incredibly impressed.
If you've read like coverage of the motor three you I haven't always been in this car biggest fan but to be able to do a skin and even flick like that with the traction control on that's pretty special stuff.
Yeah I wish I could turn everything off without having to rely on an engineer with a laptop.
And yes, if you're driving these cars in the cold, you will lose some range.
But if you're a Tesla owner and you put your car up for the winner, you're making a terrible mistake.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I still got a couple hours of sunlight left.
And I got a big snowfield with my name on it.