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Electric cars are coming, and contrary to one of my previous articles, people are actually buying them. The Tesla Model 3 just became the best-selling car in Europe. And no, I don’t mean best selling electric car, I mean best selling car period. So let’s take a deeper dive as to how successful the brand is doing across the pond.

A white Tesla Model 3 facing toward the right in a black photo studio
Tesla Model 3 in white | Tesla Motors

The Tesla Model 3 outsold every other vehicle in Europe

The statistics are from September 2021, and were gathered using the registration data of new vehicles according to The Verge. And the study shows that 24,591 Tesla Model 3s were registered last month. But Tesla didn’t just edge out the competition, it annihilated it. The second best-selling car was the Renault Clio, and only 18,264 of those were registered.

That’s a 6,000 car difference, which is more cars than Fiat sells in America every year (though, the fifth best-selling car in Europe is the Fiat/Abarth 500. So the company is far from dead). But what’s more surprising is that, of the top ten best-selling vehicles, the Tesla Model 3 is the only electric vehicle. You’d think with that much popularity, other EVs from competitors would be on the list, right?

In terms of best-selling electric cars, the Model 3 managed 24,591. And in second place is the Model Y, which sounds like Telsa has taken over. However, unlike the Model 3, only 8,926 Model Ys were registered last month. A nice 15,000 car difference. So the question isn’t why electric cars are well received, but why the Tesla Model 3, in particular, is so popular in Europe.

Why electric cars like the Tesla Model 3 make sense in Europe

Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3 | Tesla

After taking a look at some of the competition up against the Tesla Model 3, I wasn’t exactly sure why it was so well received. My initial thought was the price, which is around €39,990 (for ease of readership, we’ll be looking at the prices in Euros). However, the third best-selling car is the Volkswagen ID.3, which is essentially an electrified Golf we don’t get in America. The base model for that starts at €35,575. So the Telsa Model 3 isn’t the cheapest EV available.

That brings me to the range, which for the standard Model 3 ends up being 315 miles. On the other hand, a base model ID.3 can only go 205 miles per charge. But if you spec up an ID.3 a little more, then for just €40,936, you can get 341 miles per charge.

However, Europe is known to pinch pennies when it comes to automobiles. It’s why the vast majority of the population still drive a manual transmission car. They get an extra one or two miles per gallon, but that’s enough. The same logic applies to electric cars. And of the base model options, in the top 10 best-selling electric cars, the Model 3 has the highest range for the least amount of money.

Below is a little table, to help illustrate the point:

VehicleSales (September 2021)Base Price (Euros)Base Range (Miles)
Telsa Model 324,512€39,990315
Telsa Model Y8,926€56,990326
Volkswagen ID.38,302€35,575205
Renault Zoe6,580€23,900242
Skoda Enyaq5,942€33,800183
Kia Niro5,516€34,391239
Fiat 500e4,758€19,900199
Volkswagen ID.44,603€36,950213
Peugeot 2084,332€30,450170
Dacia Spring4,166€24,490143

Will America embrace electric cars as much as Europe does?

A red Tesla Model 3 electric car in a service center shot from the front
A Red Tesla Model 3 Posed With Other Electric Cars | Christian Charisius via Getty Images

As of now, electric cars make up 18% of all-electric vehicles in Europe according to JATO. Meanwhile, in America, electric cars are less than 1%. We don’t have a larger population either, nor do we have less cars. Europe has 297 registered vehicles, and a population of 746 million, whereas America has 272 million cars registered and just 329 million people.

So we haven’t accepted electric cars as mainstream yet. And that’s in part due to our road infrastructure, and even American culture. In depending on the European country, the average annual miles driven hovers around 6,000 to 8,000 miles a year according to Odyssee. Meanwhile, Americans drive 14,000 per year on average. And American’s also drive further in one sitting, with road trips engrained in our society.

In short, Americans crave cars with a longer range that can handle a cross-country trip at a moment’s notice. Not that we actually take last-minute road trips like that, but if we ever had to we could. With an electric car, you have to meticulously plan the route. And most people don’t want to do that.

Eventually, Americans won’t have a choice but to catch up with the booming electric car market. Gas-powered cars will be phased out, and electric cars will take center stage. Hybrids are also a healthy middle ground being considered, but whether any of that will be enough is still up in the air.


Tesla’s Electric Car Sales Thrive as Other Automaker’s Sales Dip