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Worried About Snow? Don't Dismiss Getting Rear Wheel Drive!

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by garsh, Jul 30, 2017.

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  1. garsh

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    #1 garsh, Jul 30, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
    We've had several posts on M3OC where people are worried about getting a rear-wheel drive First Production Model 3, because they wanted all-wheel drive for when it snows. The problem is that everybody has preconceived notions about rear-wheel drive vehicles being bad in the snow, while front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are better.

    Those preconceived notions do not apply to electric cars!

    Why do rear-wheel drive cars perform poorly in snow? It's because the engine is in front, while the drive wheels are in back. There's little weight over the drive wheels. That makes the wheels more prone to slip. Here are two articles that provide more detail:
    Autotrader: Why Doesn't Rear-Wheel Drive Work in the Snow?
    cars.com: How To Survive Winter With Rear-Wheel Drive

    The main difference is that an electric car does NOT have the weight of an engine up front. Instead, it has a big empty frunk (in the case of a Tesla). The majority of the weight is in the battery, which sits on the floor between the front & rear wheels. If you look at the Tesla Press Kit, over 50% of the Model 3's weight is carried by the rear wheels. So the driving wheels have plenty of weight to help keep them from spinning.

    In fact, because of this even distribution of weight, a rear-wheel drive electric car is just as good - if not better - in the snow as a front-wheel drive electric car! A front-wheel drive combustion vehicle has almost all of its weight over the driven wheels, which makes them very good in the snow. But a front-wheel drive electric car has only about half of its weight over the driven wheels. It may be hard to overcome those past prejudices, but a Bolt or Leaf will probably actually be worse in the snow that a rear-wheel drive Model 3.

    Quora has put together a decent list of videos describing how well the original rear-wheel drive Model S cars dealt with the snow.
    Quora: How well do Tesla cars drive in ice and snow?

    Watch some of those. If you've found front-wheel drive vehicles to be good-enough in the snow for your situations in the past, then consider that a rear-wheel drive Tesla (which weighs a lot more) will probably work just as well in the snow.
     
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    • KennethK

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      I had an i3 with rear wheel drive and it handled excellently in the snow with snow tires on. This is why I'm not too worried about getting rear wheel drive if the timing doesn't work out for the US tax break.
       
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      • Fun_for_the_grandkids

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        In the 70s lived in Kabul, Afghanistan - lots of snow in winter. For a while drove a rear-engined VW Beetle and never needed chains even in heavy snow - it was amazing. No winter tires in those days.
         
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        • garsh

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          Well, of course, the engine was right over the drive wheels. :)
           
        • garsh

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          I should point out that I've owned a Leaf for the past 5 years. It's been *great* in the snow with a set of snow tires. So I'm not worried at all about a Model 3 (as long as I get snow tires for it).

          The bad part about a Leaf is that the tires easily spin when accelerating from a stop in wet or snowy roads. When accelerating, weight transfers from the front to the back, lightening the front end, and making it easier for the front wheels to spin. That also won't be a problem with a rear-wheel drive Model 3.
           
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          • JWardell

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            In the good old days, we used to throw sand bags in the back to add weight over the rear drive wheels. We also used magical things called snow tires!

            My RWD BMW was an absolute beast in the snow, I had no problem cutting through 18 inches. And tons of fun if you wanted to have it.

            Remember, AWD is NOT any safer in the snow. You have the same number of wheels braking and turning. It instills false confidence that can be dangerous. The real only advantage is getting moving when stuck, after you already buried yourself in a ditch. :)
             
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            • Thomas Mikl

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              As I said even if you are stuck (happened to me once in my SUV AWD) and you are standing on ice, it wont help you. Of course it will help if you burried yourself in fluffy snow, but there a simple cardboard or plastic bag dragged under the driving wheel will also get you out...

              The invest in really good winter tires is what makes the difference. So I am living in the alps (Austrian mountains) with LOADS of snow and actually my SUV is an unneeded thing and I actually would have gotten it with FWD if it had the option.
              Our BMW i3 that we have as a second car actually drives better in winter, as it is lighter and has lower center of gravity (and RWD).

              IMHO the only reason the get AWD is performance 0-60mph.
              If you think that AWD will help you with cornering in rain or snow, you are mistaken, good tries and suspension do a lot more for you.
              Testdrive an ICE car BMW 340 and a 340 with X-Drive, I did and honestly the RWD handles better in rain, because the steering angle is better when you have no drag at the front wheels.
               
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              • Paul Hindle

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                Rear wheel drive is so much nicer than FWD, that's one of the reasons most sports cars have RWD, the drive wheels are independent of the steering wheels. Sports cars with the engine in the front do suffer a little from the engine weight in the front, my old Porsche 911 has the engine in the back which gives it a weight distribution of roughly 40 front 60 back. F1 cars have RWD and a weight distribution of 47/53 - I think that is what the Model 3 has.
                 
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                • Mike

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                  This is the biggest physical contribution to safe winter driving.

                  Only item with more importance? A winter driving technique suitable for road conditions.
                   
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                  • F91

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                    I didn't bother reading all the links on how well the RWD S does in the snow. What I do know is that the Seattle area has lots of hills. Steep hills. When these hills are covered in snow, they are slicker than hell to get up , you know, to get home after work. There are other, year round benefits to having the awd model 3 too
                    , all of which I plan on exploring when we get ours.
                     
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                    • garsh

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                      #11 garsh, Aug 5, 2017
                      Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
                      Dude, I live in Pittsburgh. The only city with hills to rival ours is San Francisco. Some of our old streets are so steep that they're actually steps! And we have the Official Steepest Residential Street in the World.
                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canton_Avenue
                      :)

                      But regarding AWD, I hear you. I'd prefer having AWD as well. I wrote this article mainly to make people realize that a RWD electric car will be just as good as a FWD combustion vehicle in the snow.
                       
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                      • JBsC6

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                        Spouses want awd. For winter driving for the kids safety.

                        No man argues with that no matter the logic.

                        You nod, you smile and you make awd a reality.

                        Just a heads up
                         
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                        • JBsC6

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                          Btw..I daily drive a rear wheel drive corvette in the ny metro winters of say 100'inches of snow each winter...

                          I drive around just fine the day after a 27 inch snowfall in one day.

                          With today's high performance summer tires,,,dedicated winter snow tires make getting around in the snow a breeze.

                          With all wheel drive vehicles most people just use all season tires 12 months A year
                           
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                          • F91

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                            Right. Except Seattle is a reference point. I live in the suburbs across Puget Sound. We also have Mountain passes in every direction. During the winter, said mountain passes will start having restrictions. The last two restrictions during a major event (every month) are AWD required and AWD with traction devices (ie: chains). If you don't have them, you are not allowed to go over the pass. End of story.
                             
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                            • garsh

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                              You need to learn to "discuss" with your wife, not argue. ;)
                              I managed to convince my wife that we'll be just fine with a rear-wheel drive Tesla. :)
                               
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                              • JBsC6

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                                Twenty four years this month...there are things you know are battles left alone...awd for her car is one of those subjects...

                                The auto manufacturers have successfully communicated to many people primarily mothers and women that awd translates into the capability to be safe during inclement NY metro area snow storms...

                                This is a discussion that a husband if he manages to convey rational thought will lose big time when the mother in law gets her daughter alone...much less the three sisters or girlfriends...

                                It's cheaper to buy awd and possibly lose a portion of the federal tax benefit...

                                Hahaha...I hope your having a good laugh as you read this...

                                At this point in my married life, ,I know long term....telling my wife I love her, she is right...I want her to be safe with awd ...is the big win...

                                For you guys that have wives who don't mind rWd , don't have friends and loved ones to warn of the ridiculously not true danger of rear wheel drive...just buy snow tires....

                                Good luck and enjoy the early delivery....I have to wait for awd as a matter of breathing ...and smiling every day...

                                Married life...gotta love it!

                                Know your spouse and act accordingly
                                 
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                                • pjfw8

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                                  I have used winter tires for many years with great success. AWD is not a substitute, but AWD with winter tires is much better than RD and winter tires. Remember that winter tires give you the option to run true summer tires and extend the life of the summer or all season tire.
                                   
                                • Tesla2ElectricBoogaloo

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                                  Had this discussion in the wheels/tires thread.

                                  My current line of thinking, as someone in the Northeast who is going to be brave and order "First Production":

                                  I'm going to get the 18" aero wheels/tires combo on my car. The tires are rated slightly better in snow than the 19s are. Also, winter is exactly when you'd want to have the added range from the aero wheels (cold weather, "slop" on the road increasing rolling resistance, etc), so any gain you can get from those wheels to offset environmental variables will help.

                                  But then in Summer.......that's when I buy some sweet looking 19's with some nice tires on them, and just swap/rotate seasonally to save the wear and tear on both sets of tires and wheels.
                                   
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                                  • Ybonac

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                                    I live in Switzerland, nearby the mountains. We go skiing most of the WE in winter, and have to bring our daughters to school sometimes in the snow. We have a Ford Grand C Max with good winter tyres and it was OK (this car will be replaced in September by a Renault Zoe R90, our first electric car). We have as well a BMW X1 (company car), and I have to say that it "feels" safer. I am not sure that we could "climb" as easily our snowy roads with a RWD T3. I have to admit that 95% of the time we do not need AWD, that is why it is still unclear for me if we have to wait and pay more for the AWD version...
                                     
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                                    • Tim M

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                                      Exactly what I'm planning to do.. $1,500 to essentially swap wheels is insane when I can buy whatever *second* set I want for $1,500 or less pretty easily and be able to seasonally swap.

                                      A lot has been discussed in this thread about how the weight will be enough on the rear wheels... however, what about the fact that the wheels that actually *steer* will have no power to them? That's what makes my 4WD SUV so much more capable in the ice & snow.. it'll actually turn.
                                       
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