NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Even in times of cheap gas, car manufacturers are betting that efficiency will be a major draw for consumers. The New York Auto Show highlighted the newest models of hybrid, electric, plug-in hybrids -- a mash-up of the two -- and futuristic fuel cell vehicles, which create pure water as a byproduct of making the engine run.

Plug in hybrids balance the cost savings and eco-consciousness of an electric vehicle with the convenience and range of a traditional internal combustion engine. Drivers can run the electric engine only for short trips; when the juice runs out, the gas engine turns on. Electric ranges vary by model.

"The sweet spot is between 12 and 50 miles," says Anton Wahlman, an analyst who covers the automotive industry. "That takes care of ... perhaps 50% or more of trips will not involve a cold engine start." 

Fuel cell vehicles, while offering a glimpse of a clean transportation future, aren't yet as practical as other fuel efficient vehicles because of lack of fueling infrastructure. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are only 12 public hydrogen fueling stations in the country -- and eight of them are in southern California.

Still, the future looks bright for alternative fuel vehicles. Here are eight of the most exciting ones at this year's New York Auto Show.

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Hyundai Tuscon Fuel Cell

The Hyundai Tuscson Fuel Cell SUV runs on hydrogen and doesn't emit any CO2 gas -- the byproduct of running it is pure water. While the car doesn't have the acceleration of a traditional internal combustion vehicle, going from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 12.5 seconds, it will get you pretty far, going 265 miles on a single tank of 12.4 pounds of hydrogen.

The SUV is currently only available for lease, and only in southern California, where there is sufficient fueling infrastructure to make the vehicle practical. Buyers can lease the car for 36 months for $499 a month after a $2,999 down payment. The payments include all maintenance and fuel costs.

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Photo Credit: Matt Glueckert

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Photo Credit: Matt Glueckert

Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid

The 2016 Sonata Plug-In Hybrid sedan gets an estimated 44 miles per gallon with a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder hybrid engine. Additionally, the car runs on "all-electric" mode with a 22-mile range and can be recharged via standard electrical outlet.

The car will become available in late 2015 and will retail for $21,975.

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Photo Credit: Porsche 

Porsche Cayenne Plug-in Hybrid

Unlike other hybrid vehicles, the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid packs a punch. It goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.4 seconds and puts out 416 horsepower at 5500 rpm. It can hit a top speed at 151 miles per hour.

Currently, the company doesn't have fuel consumption estimates. The vehicle will retail for $77,200.

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Photo Credit: Matt Glueckert

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Mercedes-Benz GLE550e

Mercedes-Benz (DDAIF) GLE550e plug-in pairs a 329 horsepower V-6 engine with an electric motor. It also has an all-electric mode that can take drivers about 18 miles before a recharge is needed.

The SUV will go on sale this September. Pricing isn't yet available.

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Photo Credit: Matt Glueckert

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Audi A3 e-tron

Audi says in marketing its new sporty hatchback that it is "leading the charge on sustainable driving" and with the many ways in which the company strives to make the e-tron environmentally friendly, it could be a credible claim.

Like competitors, the vehicle is not only a hybrid but can go 18 miles on the electric engine alone. Where Audi excels is in the way the car is manufactured and the options it gives in charging. Audi provides a solar-powered home charging station (with a detachable charger for on-the-go). Audi also will purchase carbon credits to offset 50,000 miles of driving. European testing methods have pegged this car's fuel efficiency at a whopping 157 miles per gallon.

The car will be on the market in early 2015. Pricing is not yet available.

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Photo Credit: Matt Glueckert

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BMW i8

The stylish BMW i8 doesn't come cheap at $136,500, but its looks alone could be worth the money. "With swan-wing doors, a shark-nose grille, and a supercar stance, the i8 plug-in hybrid is a truly revolutionary vehicle," said Car and Driver magazine.

It can also move. It can get to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds and its top speed is 155 miles per hour. But it gets less than 30 miles per gallon, as tested by Car and Driver -- rather pedestrian for a hybrid these days. It's available now.

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Photo Credit: Matt Glueckert

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Photo Credit: Matt Glueckert

Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in Hybrid

This Volvo (VOLVY) SUV puts out an incredible 400 horsepower while also getting an estimated 59 miles per gallon. It also can go up to 20 miles on electric alone.

According to GreenCarReports.com, the vehicle's unique design makes it the only seven-passenger plug-in hybrid SUV to date.

The Volvo XC90 T8 will start at $73,400 and will be available mid-2015.

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Toyota Mirai

The Toyota (TM) - Get Report Mirai runs on hydrogen and doesn't emit any CO2 gas -- its byproduct is pure water. It's not the fastest car on the road, getting to 60 miles an hour in nine seconds, but you don't buy this car for speed: It will take you nearly 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen.

Unlike the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell SUV, which is only available for lease, the Mirai starts at $57,500, although California residents may be eligible for a $5,000 rebate.

It's available late 2015.

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Photo Credit: Matt Glueckert

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.