MILAN — Elon Musk's Tesla paved the way nearly two decades ago. Now, the global transition to fully electric vehicles is littered with startups, inspired by a new era in mobility and drawn by the lower cost of building EVs compared with their fossil-fuel-guzzling forebears.

Gone are the billion-dollar investments that have made legacy auto-making into such a cash cow. Suppliers offer ready-made generic electric platforms and manufacturers can take on contracts for assembly — approaches that translate into savings on jobs and infrastructure.

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