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2025 Honda CR-V e:FCEV First Drive: Making Hydrogen Make Sense

Hydrogen cars are a hard sell, but Honda aims to make it easier with the CR-V e:FCEV

2025 Honda CR-V Hydrogen front three-quarter

If you want your next car to tell the world you're an early adopter, you probably know an EV won't cut it. Electric cars are everywhere — especially in big markets like California — hybrids are old news and their plug-in counterparts are so last decade. But what's this? The new Honda CR-V e:FCEV is the first plug-in hybrid fuel cell electric vehicle that's ever been put on sale here in the U.S. It's brand spanking new, and though the formula is complex, the idea is simple: Make hydrogen practical, viable and put it in a familiar package.

What even is the CR-V e:FCEV?

The CR-V e:FCEV (we'll call it the CR-V Hydrogen from now because, ugh, that name) uses Honda's second-generation fuel cell stack. It combines an electric motor, a floor-mounted 17.7-kWh battery pack, a fuel cell where the engine usually sits, and a 4.3-kilogram-capacity hydrogen fuel tank to deliver an emissions-free driving experience. The electric motor makes 174 horsepower, 229 lb-ft of torque, and sends it all exclusively to the front wheels. The hydrogen tank is mounted in the rear of the CR-V and takes up a significant portion of the cargo area, though at least Honda managed to engineer its housing into a useful shelf for stowing luggage and the like.

In a typical hydrogen-powered car the electric motor draws energy exclusively from the fuel cell — that means all its power comes from using the hydrogen stored in the tank to create electricity. But the CR-V is different. Honda's SUV is essentially a plug-in hybrid where the battery and the fuel cell are designed to work in parallel, which means the electric motor pulls from both sources at the same time. The fuel cell can also be used to keep the battery at a specific state of charge, or to charge it up on the go.

2025 Honda CR-V Hydrogen cargo area

But that's not all. The electric motor can also be powered exclusively by the battery pack. When they're working together, Honda says you can expect up to 270 miles of range in total. Why add two zero-emissions power sources to the same vehicle? Because it's a lot easier to run out of hydrogen than it is to run out of electricity.

Honda knows that hydrogen fueling stations are few and far between and that getting to one might not always be convenient or even possible. That 17.7-kWh battery pack grants 29 miles of electric-only range — assuming it's fully charged. Keeping that battery full, whether it's at home or at a Level 2 public charging station, enables buyers to get to their nearest hydrogen fueling station on electric power.

The sad reality is you're more likely to come across a Level 2 public charger than you are a hydrogen filling station. It's an inelegant solution, but them's the breaks. If you're taking the plunge on a fuel cell vehicle, you're likely already aware of the inherent hurdles.

How does it drive?

Honda let us sample a CR-V Hybrid and the hydrogen-powered model back to back, and frankly, the fuel cell version proved to be the more enjoyable of the two to drive. It's quieter while coasting along and under load because there's no raspy little four-cylinder engine clattering away behind the firewall. It also weighs around 600 pounds more than the CR-V Hybrid, and because the weight is positioned down low, it helps with balance and composure.

Honda had to thoroughly rework the suspension for the hydrogen-powered CR-V. It features new stabilizer bars, springs and dampers. While the standard CR-V is floaty and oversprung, the CR-V Hydrogen's extra weight and reworked underpinnings make for a far more buttoned-down ride that sacrifices nothing in the way of comfort.

2025 Honda CR-V Hydrogen rear three-quarter

Honda hasn't forgotten that this is part EV either. The infotainment system has new pages that can schedule charging, and there's adjustable brake regeneration controlled by paddles mounted on the back of the steering wheel (though there's no pure one-pedal driving). The CR-V Hydrogen also has a vehicle-to-load charging feature that allows you to power accessories like fans, TVs or even a portable A/C unit directly from the SUV's charging port with the included power supply connector.

If hydrogen wasn't so difficult to find at the moment, this might just be the CR-V to get.

But we have to be realistic. Hydrogen fueling stations aren't getting any easier to find, and despite how well-rounded this CR-V is on first blush, we can't help but think it's a hard sell. Those who think hydrogen is a reasonable alternative to battery electric vehicles or happen to have a fueling station on their block could see this CR-V as a smart move.

The CR-V Hydrogen is only available to lease for a three-year term, and it's only going to be sold in California. Pricing is still TBD, but you can bet it won't be cheap.

Edmunds says

Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and some say it always will be. We applaud Honda for creating a compelling hydrogen-powered package, but we're still a long way away from mass adoption of cars like this.