Honda’s Clarity Vehicles Hint At What’s To Come As Honda Moves To Electrify Sales
Honda has set a target of two-thirds of its global auto sales to be electrified by 2030, which includes fuel cell vehicles, plug-in hybrids, hybrids, and battery electric vehicles. To build a bridge to this future, Honda continues to shape its cutting edge automotive technologies into a family of production vehicles under the Clarity line. The Clarity line started with Honda’s Clarity FCX, which was the original production Honda Fuel Cell vehicle for the masses and was itself based on the 2006 Honda FCX Concept.
Each vehicle in the Clarity line pushes the boundaries for Honda in a specific segment and is geared towards a specific type of customer. As Honda’s Clarity vehicles get into the hands of more and more consumers, Honda gets more information about how the vehicles are used in the real world, and the strengths and weaknesses of each, and can adjust its plans accordingly.
The Honda Clarity Electric is a battery electric vehicle designed for around town use for those looking to use an electric vehicle for all their day-to-day tasks. Its 89 miles of all-electric range is more than sufficient for this task, and with an attractive lease offer of just $199/month, it has the potential to save drivers more in avoided gasoline purchases than it costs. My wife uses our Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive in very much this way, taking it to work, to pickup the kids, head to the beach after work and even to haul bikes around. Coming from a BMW 3-Series gasmobile, she had zero issues making the transition and it works for everything except our infrequent out-of-town trips that require more single-day range.
For those looking for a less restrictive vehicle that offers the benefits of driving on electricity to work and back without having to worry about running out of juice, check out our review of the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid (and here). The Clarity PHEV offers 47 miles of all-electric range, after which the petrol engine kicks in and allows for normal driving without having to recharge.
This combination enables drivers the ability to electrify the vast majority of their daily driving, as 95%+ of all driving is comprised of around town trips amounting to less than 50 miles. The average daily round trip commute is around 30 miles – a distance easily covered by the electric range on the Clarity PHEV. PHEVs allow the vehicle to be plugged in to charge up, which can be done at work, at home, at the store or at a hotel, to name a few places.
The Clarity Fuel Cell is a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle that runs on hydrogen. The hydrogen is stored on board the vehicle in large high pressure tanks that feed the hydrogen into the fuel cell, which is essentially a contained chemical process that mixes the hydrogen with oxygen which releases energy and water. The fuel cell stack converts that energy to electricity, which is fed to a small onboard high voltage battery. This battery powers an electric motor that moves the car forward, much like a battery electric vehicle like the LEAF or Chevrolet Bolt.
The big challenge with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is that, much like their gasoline and diesel ancestors, they require fueling stations to supply the hydrogen gas. These stations are not cheap – at $1-5 million each – which has presented yet another chicken and the egg quandary that clean air advocates, environmentalists, car companies, and customers are all looking to work on. These stations also need a reliable supply of hydrogen, which mandates new hydrogen production and distribution networks. CleanTechnica is working on an exhaustive series on the complex dynamics at play to bring hydrogen fueling stations about, so stay tuned for that in the coming weeks.
With the limited supply of hydrogen, Honda’s Clarity Fuel Cell is only available in a select few locations in close enough proximity to a fueling station. My location in Oxnard, California, is smack dab between a station in Santa Barbara and another in Thousand Oaks. At roughly 30 miles to either station, we would not qualify for a Clarity Fuel Cell and for good reason – we would use 60 miles of range from every tank just getting to and from the fueling station. That’s a non-starter.
Moving forward, Honda has a long-standing partnership with General Motors to continue to refine fuel cell technology, which they recently renewed. Additionally, Honda and General Motors entered into a partnership in June 2018 to develop better lithium-ion battery technology. We will surely be keeping our eyes on Honda as innovations flow from the lab into the Clarity line and eventually into more of its production vehicle lineup on the way to achieving its 2030 goals.
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