When creating a new production vehicle, being truly innovative is not easy. In selecting the recipient of this year's Edmunds CES Tech Driven Award for Most Innovative Car of the Year, we honor a manufacturer whose different approach to design and engineering is forging a better path forward. That's why the award goes to the 2018 Honda Clarity.
Like many other vehicles, the Honda Clarity is available with eco-minded powertrains. No news there. However, the Clarity offers powertrains spanning a particularly varied range, from plug-in hybrid to electric battery to hydrogen fuel cell. This variety is what separates the Clarity from every other car now on the market and why Honda had some unique design and engineering challenges to overcome.
Honda's Clarity Plug-In Hybrid uses a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, an electric motor and a 17-kWh battery to deliver an estimated 340 miles of combined range, with the ability to drive 47 of them solely on electric power. From here, it isn't too complicated a switch to all-electric power, but Honda managed to package the 50 percent larger 25.5-kWh battery pack behind the rear seats without losing the split-fold seatback. The Clarity Electric has a range of 89 miles.
Accommodating a fuel cell powertrain is where things get tricky. Honda's original first-generation Clarity fuel cell design placed some components (such as the fuel cell stack) in the center of the passenger cabin — a layout still used by some automakers. But Honda redesigned the new Clarity's powertrain to fit entirely under the hood. This move eliminates the need for a wide center tunnel that eats into passenger room and affords the Clarity space to accommodate five passengers.
Diversifying our fuel sources is undoubtedly a smart and necessary measure to help meet our transportation needs. And the Honda Clarity is one of the best examples today of how innovative design can provide us with real flexibility and options for the future.