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Prairie Tesla owners battle loss of heat amid extreme cold weather after software update

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A number of Tesla owners across the prairies complain they are experiencing heating issues in their vehicles at a time when temperatures have plummeted.

The issue began in mid-December after a software update for the Model 3 and Model Y electric vehicles.

"One day when it was - 12 C in the cabin, I was just shivering, and seems like the only fix that I can get is if I pull over at the side of the highway," said Kelly Gibbons, who purchased his 2022 Model 3 in Edmonton on Christmas Eve.

Gibbons says the purchase was motivated by a desire to save money on fuel costs during his work commute from Calgary to Canmore.

Despite plugging in his vehicle nightly, Gibbons says the interior heat is intermittent even after having some sensors replaced to address it.

"Worst case scenario, I might just have to start looking for another vehicle," he said.

Other drivers in the prairies have also reported having troubles with cold cars.

One Tesla owner in Saskatchewan tweeted about his issues with a lack of interior cabin heating on Dec. 27.

Two days later, another Saskatchewan driver tweeted about how a family member with a combustion engine had to come to his aide when the heat failed whilst driving with small children in tow.

Angie Dean, the president of the Tesla Owner's Club of Alberta, says the issue is due to a recent software upgrade and is isolated to approximately 10 - 20 drivers across Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Dean reached out to Tesla corporate last week and was told the issue has been sent up the chain.

A long-time Calgary-based Tesla owner herself, Dean says newer models have a new heat pump installed so as to not drain energy from the lithium-ion battery.

She tells owners to "precondition" or warm up their vehicles before driving, saying it could improve the way batteries operate in cold weather.

"Preconditioning the car is it's just healthier for the batteries," Dean said. "You wouldn't throw your phone out in a snowbank and then try and turn it on and go all over the place. Same thing with an electric car, it just works better."

Will York is on the board with the Electric Vehicles Association of Alberta (EVAA) and says his Tesla is experiencing less-than-optimal interior heating as he drives around Edmonton.

"I think that Tesla made a mistake and it is a very unfortunate mistake," York said. "But it's a software update. It's a software mistake, not an electric vehicle performance mistake."

He suspects the software issue will be resolved in a matter of weeks.

Red Deer resident Carmen Christie-Bill has owned her Model 3 Tesla since 2018 and says there are ways to improve the interior heating for driving in the winter.

"When plugged in at home, schedule a departure time via the (Tesla) app, which will warm the cabin of the car as well as the battery, reducing the battery having to use the energy during the first several minutes of your drive to do so," Christie-Bill said.

"Departure with warm battery and cabin provides comfort for the driver as well as ensuring that full brake regeneration and full power for acceleration is available."

York, meanwhile, says the EVAA continues to spread awareness about the performance of electric vehicles, like Tesla's, in regions with harsh winters.

"The tide is changing and it's going fully towards electric. I believe there will (soon) be electric everywhere in Alberta," he said.

CTV News has reached out to Tesla's corporate communications and is waiting for a reply.

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