The Toyota Plug-in Hyrbrid Prius just announced by the company will be the first alternative to pure gasoline combustion automotive engines that provides the best of plug-in and hybrid combined in one.

Sure, the Chevrolet Volt is more plug-in than hybrid, and Nissan's Leaf is all plug-in, with zero emissions, but the new Prius will offer the best combination of both technologies -- and it will cost some $8,000 less than the Volt.

The newest version of the Prius, announced late last week from Toyota, will get more fuel efficiency, and longer electric range, while selling at a lower price that competitive pure electric or range-extender vehicles including the Volt and the Leaf. In hybrid mode, the car is estimated to get 49 miles per gallon -- near the same as current Prius models.

Thus, the biggest difference is the extended electric range allowed via plug-in.

Two models will be available, including the Plug-in Hybrid base model for $32,000 MSRP and the Plug-in Hybrid Advanced, with premium features, for $39,525 MSRP. Both models are expected to qualify for the $2,500 federal tax credit.

Initially, Toyota's new hybrid will only be available in 14 states, beginning in October. Those states include: California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. The company will have a national roll out of the new Prius Plug-in hybrid in 2013, the company said.

Toyota's new car promises to become a competitive handful for Chevy's Volt, costing less and effectively mixing both hybrid and plug-in. The Volt, which gets good reviews, runs father on electric power -- some 25 miles or more. And that's one major advantage for the Volt.

But even though the Plug-in Hybrid Prius will only run about 15 miles on just electricity, the electric engine can be charged in three hours while the Volt requires 10 to 12 hours of charging when a standard home connection is used.

Another advantage for Prius is that the car was the first mass produced hybrid to find success in the U.S. -- and the brand already has a long, successful customer following considering Toyota invested almost $1 billion to develop and launch the Prius in the 1990s while U.S. automakers focused on gas-guzzling SUVs.

Nissan is trying to establish its all-electric Leaf in the same way -- leaving out the hybrid while attempting to leapfrog straight to pure plug-in. And while reviews and sales of the Leaf have been good, the fact that the car does not use hybrid technology leaves it out of the competitive race now on between Toyota's Plug-in Hybrid Prius and the Chevrolet Volt.

GM has a lot invested in the Volt, but with a lower price, an established brand and Toyota's leading hybrid technology -- the Plug-in Prius will give the Volt a big run for its money.