5 electric alternatives to Tesla's Model 3

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5 electric alternatives to Tesla's Model 3

Before Tesla cultivated a yearlong waiting list and 1,800 new orders a day 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 Edmunds.

The Model 3 is being billed as the tip of the spear for the electric car market to go mainstream. Yet Tesla CEO Elon Musk's latest model might not be for everyone. Its $35,000 starting price could still be a stretch for many auto buyers, and consumers are often wary of buying any first-generation vehicle.

Tesla reported a record loss per share for the fiscal second quarter, though it beat revenue expectations. Musk said on the earnings call that 63,000 Model 3 orders had been canceled course of the last year.

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:

Smart fortwo Electric Drive

Arguably the cheapest EV in America, the smart fortwo Electric Drive can be bought for less than $20,000. With a top speed of just 81 mph and a range of about 80 miles, this pocket-sized car is generally recommended for cruising around a city.

Smart fortwo electric drive vehicle on display at the 16th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition (Auto Shanghai 2015) in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, April 21, 2015.
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Smart fortwo electric drive vehicle on display at the 16th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition (Auto Shanghai 2015) in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

Ford Focus Electric

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.

A Ford C-MAX Hybrid is seen in a show room at the Ford Motor Co.'s Michigan Assembly Plant December 14, 2011 in Wayne, Michigan.
Bill Pugliano | Getty Images
A Ford C-MAX Hybrid is seen in a show room at the Ford Motor Co.'s Michigan Assembly Plant December 14, 2011 in Wayne, Michigan.

Nissan Leaf

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.

Andy Cross | The Denver Post | Getty Images

Kia Soul EV

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.

A Kia Soul EV model car is on display during the 116th New York International Auto Show at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.
Cem Ozdel | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A Kia Soul EV model car is on display during the 116th New York International Auto Show at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.

Chevrolet Bolt

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.

Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles (EV) stand on display during the press day of the Seoul Motor Show in Goyang, South Korea
SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles (EV) stand on display during the press day of the Seoul Motor Show in Goyang, South Korea