The “Smoke” During Supercharging is Probably just Steam

Steam exiting from the front of a Tesla while DC charging

Newer owners of Teslas (and other EVs) may be concerned about seeing what looks like smoke coming out the front of their cars while DC fast charging. This is especially common during winters when the outside air is cold and dry. But unless you can actually smell something burning, do not panic. Modern Teslas manage heating/cooling of the cabin and battery through an octo-valve heat pump system that is capable of discharging heat and moisture into the environment from the vents under the front bumper.

This is a well-known phenomenon among more experienced EV owners, and it is well documented in the Tesla manual here.

In one extreme case, a panicked Model Y owner called the fire department when they thought their car was about to catch fire while Supercharging.

In defense of this car owner; this situation can seem unusual for someone new to electric cars. Driving internal combustion engine cars for decades, we have become accustomed to seeing gasses and vapor exiting from exhaust pipes from behind cars. Seeing “smoke” and vapor exiting from the front of vehicles (where ICE cars have hot engines) would be a cause for concern about a mechanical breakdown or fire.

According to statistics, electric cars catch fire at lower rates than gasoline combustion cars. But it is not out of the realm of possibility that your electric car may catch fire in extreme circumstances. But remember; when something is burning you will usually smell it before you can see it.

Steam coming out the front of the car is normal, and we’re going to see a lot more of it going forward.

The steam cloud can get large in cold dry air. Video Credit: Michael Kim


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