What Did We Buy?
We've added a 2017 Honda Clarity to our long-term test fleet. It's one of only a handful of hydrogen fuel cell cars on the market today. We spent six months last year with a Toyota Mirai fuel cell sedan and were pleasantly surprised by how normal it was in day-to-day driving.
Then again, maybe we shouldn't have been that surprised. Although we call them fuel cell cars, they're really nothing more than electric cars that get their power in a different manner. Rather than storing electricity in batteries, cars such as the Clarity have a fuel cell on board that converts hydrogen into electricity.
Honda claims the Clarity is better than Toyota's Mirai in every measurable way. It's the kind of thing you expect to hear given the rivalry between the two companies, but Honda and Toyota are also two companies that have bet big on the whole idea of hydrogen fuel cells. Other competitors have decided that battery-powered electric cars are the way to go. Tesla boss Elon Musk has even gone as far as calling hydrogen cars "fool cells."
It's an issue that will be debated for many years to come. At the moment, all we can do is test what's available now. We already own a Tesla Model X and a Chevrolet Bolt, so the Clarity seemed like a logical choice.
Note that we don't actually own this vehicle. Honda only lets you lease a Clarity, and only a handful of dealerships in California stock it. Not surprisingly, there weren't many available when we started our search. After getting on a few waiting lists, the Norm Reeves Honda Superstore in Irvine was the first dealer to find one for us. There's not much negotiating to do since it's a set lease price of $369 per month. We signed the paperwork, and a dealer rep delivered the Clarity to our office and gave us a tour of its features.
What Options Does It Have?
Once you decide to lease the Honda Clarity, the only other decision to make is what color you want. There are no trim levels or options of any kind. In fact, there are only three colors to choose from: Crystal Black Pearl, Red Bordeaux Metallic and White Orchid Pearl.
Ours is the Crystal Black Pearl with a black interior. It's not the most photogenic color, but in person we like the way the Clarity looks since it makes some of the car's more peculiar design elements less awkward.
Why We Bought It
After our first taste of living with a hydrogen car, we wanted to learn more. Our time with the Toyota Mirai proved that hydrogen is a practical alternative to batteries when it comes to delivering electricity — provided there's a refueling station nearby.
In 2016, there were only a handful of stations in our area. Now, there are 14 stations in greater Los Angeles, with several more planned to come online by the end of the year. It may not sound like much, but with well over 350 miles of range per tank, the Clarity doesn't need daily access.
We were also intrigued by how far the Clarity has come from the limited-production Honda FCX Clarity that came out in 2008. That car seemed more like an experiment than one ready for prime time. This Clarity looks and feels like a real car inside and out, so we expect it to fit right in with the rest of the vehicles in our fleet.
For our latest thoughts and impressions of the 2017 Honda Clarity, follow its progress on our long-term road test page.
Edmunds leased this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.