Even though electric vehicle sales only account for a fraction of automotive sales, there's no question carmakers are investing more money in the technology because they believe it's the future of automotive. More models are jumping into the fight year after year. The Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Niro EV, Audi e-tron, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Porsche Taycan, and even the Aston Martin Rapide E are all electric vehicles arriving soon, and that field will only grow over the next few years.

model 3 gray front
The Tesla Model 3 was the dark horse that came out of the shadows to rule.

But it's really the Tesla Model 3 that's taken the world by storm. Sure, we've all read about its struggles in production and its build-quality issues. But the meat of the matter is the fact that it's the best-selling EV by a significant margin, and the animated graph below shows its meteoric rise that's about as dramatic as anything we've ever seen in terms of automotive sales growth. 

Watch the very beginning where the Chevy Volt, Nissan LEAF, and Prius Plug-In Hybrid dominate. The Tesla Model S starts rising quickly, and then the LEAF passes the Prius. You also start to see the slow but temporary rise of the BMW i3. Then the Model S passes the Prius PHV. The LEAF briefly takes the #1 spot over the Volt but then drops back to second place. A second Tesla model, the X SUV, starts to rise quickly, and you also find the Prius Prime and the Chevy Bolt hatchback climb through the ranks as other models like the Fiat 500e and the Ford C-Max Energi begin to drop. 

chevy volt red
The Volt never saw the storm clouds coming. Now, the once dominant model is gone.

But then watch the Tesla Model 3 come out of nowhere and climb faster than any of them. It jumps from the bottom in May of 2018 all the way to fourth place in half a year. By February of 2019, it's taken the top spot and surpassed total sales of the Chevy Volt by almost 30,000 units and even passes its big brother, the Model S, which had been on the market six years longer by that time. What's more, the Chevy Volt is no longer being made, having been canceled by GM.

Talk about crushing the competition. It's a fascinating look at how one model came to define the EV industry, even as a latecomer. We'll see what the upcoming Model Y crossover does since Tesla is betting it will sell even more units than the Model 3.