Before Tesla cultivated a year-long waiting list for its fully electric Model 3 sedan, "pure electric" vehicles — cars that run entirely on electricity, as opposed to hybrid cars — seemed like something of a niche market. Electric-only cars make up just 0.5 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales, according to Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at auto researcher Edmund's.
The Model 3 is being billed as the tip of the spear for the electric car market to go mainstream. Yet Elon Musk's latest car might not be for everyone. Its $35,000 starting price could still be a stretch for many car buyers, and consumers are often wary of buying any first-generation vehicle.
Those looking for an alternative to Tesla are in luck: There are 11 totally electric cars already on the road today, and many of them are more affordably priced than the Model 3. Here are five of Tesla's competitors that have a head start in the race for electric dominance, from least to most expensive:
Arguably the cheapest EV in America, the smart fortwo Electric Drive can be bought for under $20,000. With a top speed of just 81 miles per hour and a range of about 80 miles, this pocket-sized car is generally recommended for cruising around a city.
Like Tesla's cars, the Ford Focus Electric stands out by fitting in. The electric sedan eschews the futurism of other EV models, such as the BMW i3 and the Nissan Leaf, by looking exactly like a normal sedan. The Focus Electric starts at $29,120.
The Nissan Leaf may not have the flash of the Model S, but its design and competitive pricing made it the top-selling EV in 2016. That's likely to change when the Model 3 hits the road, however. While the Leaf boasts a range of up to 107 miles per charge, Tesla claims its car can travel 220 miles on a single charge. And the two cars are comparably priced: Nissan's EV starts at $30,680, versus the Model 3's $35,000 base price.
Kia's EV contender offers a more spacious alternative in the compact EV market. Unfortunately, the Soul EV isn't available in some parts of the U.S., and its relatively limited range of 93 miles per charge puts this car in a separate category from the Model 3. Those looking for an electric car with extra headroom for driving around town might be willing to shell out $32,250 for the Soul EV.
With a compact, mousy design similar to the Toyota Prius and a price tag of $37,495, the Chevy Bolt might not be the perfect budget alternative to the Model 3. But Chevy's EV does have one important advantage: a driving range of 238 miles on a single charge.