Honda Clarity Electric, Plug-In Hybrid Joining Fuel-Cell Model in 2017

The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell isn’t even in customer hands yet, but Honda already is announcing the addition of two other Clarity models. After the Fuel Cell launches later this year, a Clarity Electric and a Clarity Plug-in Hybrid will launch in 2017.

The idea, explains American Honda executive vice president John Mendel, is for the company to cover its bases as consumers (and the car industry as a whole) determines what types of fuels will be most useful over the coming years.

“We continue to view fuel cell as the ultimate, long-term solution to society’s energy and environmental concerns,” he said, but added that the Clarity family is critical because, “this shared platform strategy will enable Honda to more efficiently respond to infrastructure and market developments.”

The first model is the Honda Clarity Electric, which will launch in California in 2017 and may be sold in other states subsequently. There is no word yet on its driving range or battery capacity, but like the Fuel Cell version (pictured here), it will be based on Honda’s stylish, spacious Clarity five-passenger sedan. The Clarity platform, Honda says, was specifically designed from the ground up to support a variety of powertrain options.

Toward the end of 2017, the Honda Clarity PHEV will debut, available in all 50 states. It is expected to offer more than 40 miles of all-electric driving range, and just like the Chevrolet Volt, it has a gasoline engine to serve as a range extender once the battery charge is depleted.

“The Clarity Plug-in will be the volume leader,” Mendel says, though he declines to talk specific sales goals. There are no plans to build the Clarity models in the U.S. for now, though Mendel says that could change in the future as all Honda plants will be retooled to support building traditional or electrified vehicles.

Honda has publicly stated it wants two-thirds of its global car sales to include some form of electrification by 2030, whether that’s a hybrid, full-EV, PHEV, or fuel-cell arrangement. In fact, Mendel says that Honda is, “committed to offering a plug-in variant on our major core models in the future.” But because the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is on the way and is also a five-passenger sedan, don’t expect to see a new PHEV version of the Accord.

There’s a serious uphill battle to face with any of Honda’s planned alternative-fuel cars. This year, the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell launches in California, and will be available to lease for about $500 a month or about $60,000 if customers want to buy it outright. But the last time Honda leased a fuel-cell car, the FCX Clarity, the company only found about 40 customers for it.

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