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When Nissan launched its battery-powered Leaf vehicle in December 2010, at a time when it seemed little could challenge the dominance of the internal combustion engine, it was a revolutionary all-electric car. The motor business was an “unassailable moat”, as investment guru Warren Buffett has said of the protection he prefers for the industries he invests in.

Nothing has higher barriers to entry than the automotive industry — and space travel — and the sectors seemed immune to outside disruption. Or so they thought. The arrival of Tesla cars set the cat among the pigeons and spurred a flurry of development of electric vehicles (EVs) by all the carmakers...

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