Word of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's plans to mass produce the world's cheapest natural gas hybrid minicar ($7,000 to $10,000) leaked out earlier this year. The billionaire's ambitious project calls for the construction of assembly plant in the Russian city of Togliatti starting in January 2011. Prokhorov's investment, a mere €150 million ($201 million U.S. at the current exchange rate), will supposedly fund construction of the facility and production of the the hybrid vehicles.

In November, we got our hands on some renderings of Prokhorov's hybrid city car. The gas-electric, to be offered in both hatchback and coupe version, was drawn up by designer Vladimir Cesler and will be built by truck manufacturer, Yarovit. Well, there comes a time in the development stage when every vehicle gets a name and, for Prokhorov's hybrid, the chosen tag is ë-mobile. The name incorporates a Cyrillic letter with no English equivalent, but its pronunciation of "yo" is supposedly obscene to the Russian ear. In response to that, a company spokesman told the Wall Street Journal, "We have no problems with that – everyone interprets it as he pleases." NPR says the ë will get 67 miles to the gallon. That sounds good in any language.

[Source: NPR, Wall Street Journal]

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