Roadshow

The best electrified cars: Hybrids, plug-ins and pure electrics

These are the electric cars that changed car buying.

Tesla

Tesla, Tesla, Tesla. The company dominates the headlines and conversations about cars with a plug, but others have been doing the hard work of electrification since Elon Musk was building online yellow pages at Zip2. So here's a list of the best electrified cars in history, based on market success. As a bonus, all of these are still available today (but hurry up if you want a Chevy Volt.)

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Best hybrid: Toyota Prius (1997 and on)
The best-selling hybrid by far was the gateway drug that introduced people to the idea that cars could be driven by something other than combustion. That was the big bang. Total sales of Prius and other cars using its powertrain are around 12 million. And they sell for a profit.

Best plug-in hybrid: Chevy Volt (2010 to 2019)
The Chevy Volt was the best-selling plug-in hybrid. I say "was" because GM has pulled the plug on it, focusing on pure-battery electrics. But in its two generations, the Volt sold in big numbers for a car that most people couldn't even understand.

Best EV: Nissan Leaf (2010 and on)
We're in pure electric territory now and you can't underestimate how much Nissan did to create that market. At 400,000 copies sold, the Leaf remains the best-selling electric car of all time and occupies a price range where Tesla doesn't even play.

Luxury car: Tesla Model 3 (2018)
Selling 138,000 units in 2018, the Model 3 was the best-selling luxury car in the US; it just happens to be electric, as well. Put another way, the Model 3 nearly equaled the total number of BMW cars sold in the US in 2018 (149,000) or what Infiniti and Lexus sold combined (142,000). Yes, these are numbers of cars, not SUVs and crossovers, but when people mutter about carmakers building EVs just because they're fashionable or mandated, it's also because Tesla is stealing their best customers.

Too popular: Tesla and GM 
These are the only two companies that have sold so many electric cars they are starting to lose the federal tax credit that helped sell them in the first place. Tesla and GM both triggered tax credit phase-out in the first half of 2018 after each hit cumulative US sales of 200,000 units. Now we'll see what drivers buy when some electric cars artificially cost $7,500 less than a competitor.