Now that car manufacturers are finally starting to build electric vehicles, a whole new marketing vocabulary is needed to sell them to a sometimes-wary public.

Or, as the New York Times reports, the shift to battery power also requires brands to retool their sales machinery. What used to work to hook a potential buyer is now obsolete – gone are specs like horsepower and the number of cylinders; in come terms such as connectivity and range, with sustainability as the new lure.

Electric cars are, of course, nothing new – the BMW i3, Nissan Leaf and Tesla’s lineup have been around for several years. But the size of the market is now accelerating fast and heading rapidly towards the mainstream.

At the Geneva International Motor show there are suddenly dozens of electric vehicles being displayed, reports the NYT. And, unlike in previous years, these are no longer prototypes or concept cars – they're vehicles in mass production from brands such as Audi, VW, Renault and Porsche that will be available to buy later this year and next.

“2019 will be a decisive year for electromobility,” Herbert Diess, the Volkswagen chief executive, said at a company event in Geneva.

Differentiation is the buzz word among marketers – but many of the features that distinguish petrol-driven cars, such as quiet interiors, acceleration and smooth handling are fairly standard with electric cars, which are super-quiet by default, offer instant power from their battery-driven engines, and hug the road firmly thanks to heavy battery packs giving them a low centre of gravity.

But electric cars still cost thousands of dollars more than conventional vehicles, which makes the motivation to buy them different too, at least for now.

The reason a buyer chooses an electric car at the moment is because he or she “is being friendly to the planet”, Olivier Murguet, executive vice president for sales at French carmaker Renault, told the NYT.

But, he adds, those customers still look carefully at the same things as other car buyers – like the price.

It’s not only marketing-speak that has to change; the advance of electric cars may also mean new business models need to be promoted. Electric cars may be vastly more expensive than conventional ones – mainly due to the high cost of batteries, but they are also holding their price well, according to Murguet.

This means that attractive leasing terms can be offered by manufacturers as there’ll be a good resale price at the end of a lease.

And car-sharing services may become increasingly significant buyers of electric cars; these buyers tend to look at the lifetime cost of buying, rather than the initial purchase price, and, from that perspective, electric cars look like a good deal as they don’t need costly maintenance, and electricity is cheaper per mile than petrol.

“The whole business case is changing for all of us,” says Chris Delaney, president of Europe for tyre-makers Goodyear.

Sourced from the New York Times; additional content by WARC staff