Honda is expanding its Clarity range, tripling the number of products offered under the nameplate.
Beyond the standard-bearing fuel-cell model, the Japanese automaker is adding a plug-in hybrid variant as well as a pure electric offering. These vehicles will be essentially identical to the Clarity Fuel Cell, sharing the same exterior styling, interior trimmings and major components; the defining difference between each one is what powers them.
They all benefit from the same low, wide architecture that provides great aerodynamics and ample space for up to five passengers. The cars’ interiors are also unexpectedly premium, with rich-looking materials and cutting-edge technology.
Clarity models features plenty of high-end touches, things like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well as Honda Sensing, the company’s suite of advanced driver-assistance technologies.
As its name implies, the Clarity Fuel Cell is motivated by a hydrogen fuel cell. This system is 33 percent more compact than its predecessor, fitting completely under the car’s hood, a monumental achievement. Just a generation or two ago they took up the space of several washing machines. It’s also 60 percent more power dense, a huge increase compared to before.
All told, the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is expected to provide a driving range in excess of 300 miles, with a refueling time of no more than five minutes, which compares very favorably to fossil-fuel-powered vehicles.
This will be the first of the Clarity models to go on sale, landing at dealerships in select markets late this year. The availability of fueling stations will determine where it’s available, which, for the most part, means California. Lease price for the Clarity Fuel Cell is targeted at less than $500 per month, with a purchase cost of around $60,000.
Next up is the Clarity Plug-In, which is set to launch in 2018. Thanks to greater availability and powertrain flexibility, it should be the family’s volume seller. It will feature an estimated electric-only driving range of more than 40 miles as well as a super-efficient gasoline hybrid powertrain. Customers can charge it at home and fill the tank as they want.
As for the Clarity Electric, it too will be a premium, affordable midsize sedan, but one that happens to have a pure-electric drivetrain. Other details about it are unavailable at this time, but it’s expected to go on sale next year.
“We’re strongly committed to creating a volume business for electrified vehicles,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda. With the expanded Clarity family, it looks like that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
The folks at Honda also think fuel cells are the ultimate long-term solution to the personal-mobility problem, which is why the company is pushing them harder than other automakers.