The 5 Best-Selling Electric Cars of 2017

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Electric vehicle sales are starting to becoming a meaningful part of the auto business, and manufacturers are starting to take notice. Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) gets most of the media's attention in EVs, but it's not the only one investing in the industry and may not be as big as you think in the EV market.

Here's a look at the top five electric vehicles in the U.S. in 2017, based on Inside EV's most recent sales data.

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Tesla leads the way

The Model S is the best selling EV in the U.S. for the second year in a row, but interestingly, sales may fall from 2016 to 2017. Tesla sold 28,896 of the Model S in 2016 and has only sold 22,085 in the first 11 months of 2017, which gives it a pace of 24,092 for the year.

Tesla also has the fifth-best-selling electric vehicle in the Model X. 18,015 were sold in the first 11 months of the year, implying that sales will only be up slightly from the 18,223 sold in 2016.

The most hyped EV of 2017, the Model 3, is the 24th-best-selling EV so far this year, with only 712 sold. That could leave an opening for other manufacturers who are growing their EV sales very quickly.

An electric car threat Tesla needs to take seriously

The Model 3 may not be having a great year, but its biggest competitor, General Motors' (NYSE: GM) Chevy Bolt, certainly is. 20,070 Chevy Bolts were sold in the first 11 months of the year, and in the last three months alone, 8,400 Bolts were sold, an annualized rate of 33,600. The hybrid Chevy Volt is also the fourth-best-selling EV of 2017, with 18,412 sold so far. While GM's EVs are still behind Tesla's in sales for the year, the Detroit automaker is getting close to surpassing Elon Musk's car company.

GM says it has two more fully electric vehicles set to launch in 2018, with another 18 more by 2023, part of its effort to be an all-electric company. It's also a lot further along on autonomous driving than many people realize, planning to launch a self-driving car service in 2019.

General Motors may not have been the first to the all-electric-vehicle market, and doesn't get as many headlines as Tesla, but it's a big player to watch as the EV industry grows.

Late to the EV party

Toyota (NYSE: TM) is certainly late to the EV party compared to Tesla and GM, but it still has the third-best-selling electric vehicle with the Prius Prime. The hybrid vehicle only gets about 25 miles of electric range, but that's enough to qualify it as an electric car, like the Chevy Volt.

While Toyota hasn't invested much in EVs in the past, the company recently said it would have "more than 10" electric vehicles worldwide by the early 2020s, an acknowledgment that batteries are quickly becoming the future of the car market and that the fuel cells the company had previously bet on aren't gaining much traction. Given the fact that Toyota has the third-best-selling electric vehicle in the U.S., it's already creating a name in EVs that it can build on.

2018 will be a big year for EVs

EV sales in the U.S. have grown from 158,614 units in 2016 to 173,941 in the first 11 months of 2017, and next year we should see even more growth. The Model 3 should start selling at a much faster rate when production ramps up, and manufacturers like GM, Nissan, and BMW are just a few launching new or upgraded EVs in 2018. As these vehicles become more affordable for consumers and obstacles like range anxiety subside, we should see adoption increase further in 2018.

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Travis Hoium has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.