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Hybrid News From Toyota and GM

With its much-ancticipated Volt due to debut next week, General Motors [NYSE:GM] released a few publicity shots to goad potential buyers' curiousity. The teasers show the new model from three angles: top, grille and tail, and the final version, while subject to tweaks before its 2010 release, looks markedly calmer than its original concept model. That's perhaps a reflection of GM's intent to make this a mass-market vehicle, appealing not only to eco-nuts but also to regular families seeking a decent transportational bottom line. 

That bottom line isn't going to be quite as low as most buyers would want, however; according to GM's own research, about 33,000 respondents said they'd pay around $31,000 for the car, while GM has said the MSRP will be closer to $40,000. Factoring in government tax incentives, however, might bring the price down closer to the target. The Volt will be equipped with a battery-operated plug-in drivetrain with a 40-mile range and a 1.8-liter naturally aspirated gasoline engine which can charge the battery once it exceeds its range.

The number two carmaker, Toyota [NYSE:TMC] was meanwhile focussing on finishing touches of its popular hybrid, the Prius. Word on the street has it that Toyota will employ a noise-cancelling audio system in a future generation of the car, that uses a technology akin to that in noise-cancelling headphones. Microphones and sensors will pick up the frequency of engine and road noise, and use embedded head-level speakers to produce counter-frequencies that should result in a quieter ride. Whether or not that will quiet down your screaming kids in the backseat remains to be seen.

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