Most alternative fuel vehicles come with one specific type of powertrain. But the Honda Clarity is different. Honda offers the Clarity in three different versions: a battery-storage electric vehicle (EV), a hydrogen fuel-cell EV or a plug-in hybrid with an internal combustion engine. If you're shopping for a green car, Honda's got you covered in every way with the Clarity.
Current Honda Clarity
Honda calls these different versions the Clarity Fuel Cell, the Clarity Electric and the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid. The Fuel Cell debuted first as a 2017 model, with the Electric and Plug-in Hybrid coming on line for the 2018 model year.
The Clarity Fuel Cell is powered by a 174-horsepower electric motor that draws its power from a hydrogen fuel cell. The fuel cell mixes hydrogen and oxygen in a chemical reaction that produces water and electricity. The power produced by the fuel cell both powers the electric motor and charges a lithium-ion battery that provides extra power for acceleration, much like the battery in a hybrid car.
The fuel cell's main components fit beneath the hood along with the electric motor. There are two high-pressure hydrogen tanks: one lives beneath the rear seat and the other between the rear seatback and the trunk (which limits cargo space to just 11.8 cubic feet). The tanks hold enough hydrogen to give the Clarity Fuel Cell a driving range of 366 miles. The Clarity Fuel Cell will initially be offered exclusively in California, the only state with the necessary (albeit very limited) hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Honda is only offering the Clarity Fuel Cell on lease.
The Clarity Electric uses a 161-hp electric motor fed by a 25.5-kWh battery pack. The good news is that the battery charges quickly. Honda says it takes just three hours using a standard 240-volt Level 2 charger. The battery also supports DC fast charging and can pick up an 80 percent charge in about 30 minutes. The bad news is the Electric's driving range of 89 miles, which is less than that of most other EVs in this price range. As with the Fuel Cell, initial availability will be limited to select states and leasing plans.
The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid uses a more conventional hybrid drivetrain centered around a 1.5-liter gasoline engine and a 17-kWh battery pack. With the battery charged from an external source, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is expected to have a 42-mile electric-only range. When the battery runs low, the gasoline engine fires up and the Clarity operates like a regular hybrid car. Even if no charging stations are available, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid can continue to operate on gasoline.
We've had plenty of time behind the wheel of the Clarity Fuel Cell, having added one to our long-term fleet. The Clarity falls somewhere between a Honda Accord and Honda Civic in size, but it has a more eccentric exterior styling and a slightly more styled and upscale interior. In our experience, the Clarity Fuel Cell doesn't feel as spry as other electric cars (including the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai), though we do like the smooth flow of power, a common characteristic of electric vehicles. Other advantages to the Clarity include a roomy cabin and excellent outward visibility.
Read the most recent 2018 Honda Clarity review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Honda Clarity page.