Hydrogen fuel cell cars creeping up on electrics

Honda clarity

Japanese carmaker Honda has set itself a huge target of selling 75,000 electrified cars in the USA within the next four years and it believes that the key to meeting that goal is to offer buyers a range of three very different types of plug-in auto, all called Clarity.

The Honda Clarity has always been a fuel-cell auto, but the name is now for a series of green cars that includes the just-unveiled Plug-in Hybrid and Electric models. As the name suggests, these two vehicles are actually different models of the same auto.

Each of the three five-seat Clarity models gets its own distinctive design treatment, which includes a hero color, differentiated lighting and front styling, and individual 18-in wheel designs. The Clarity series will contribute to an anticipated five-fold increase in Honda's US sales of electrified vehicles over the next four years as the company works toward its target that two-thirds of its global automobile sales will come from electrified vehicles by 2030.

Honda's fuel-cell version of the Clarity is aimed at "the most devoted of green motorists who want to cut the cord altogether", said Steve Center, vice president of American Honda's Environmental Business Development Office.

In terms of performance, the Clarity PHEV's 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine and electric motor combine for 181-horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque. That motor will be powered by a 17-kilowatt-hour battery pack and electricity generated by the gasoline engine.

The pure-electric Clarity Electric offers only 80 miles of total driving range. In addition to the three regular modes, HV mode maintains the battery's state of charge and can be selected in conjunction with Normal, Econ and Sport driving modes.

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The Fuel Cell Clarity, which creates electricity via a chemical reaction between hydrogen and water, offers a very impressive 366-mile range.

The Japanese automaker sold a dedicated hybrid in the form of its first- and second-generation Insight cars.

However, the electric vehicle faces another issue which may hamper its overall sales.

The hybrid charges on a 240-volt connection in about two and a half hours, and can go about 330 miles on a full tank and battery. The vehicle will be capable of driving an estimated 42 miles before its range extender, in this case a 1.5-liter inline-4 running the Atkinson cycle, needs to step in. The vehicle can by fully charged in over three hours at 240 volts, and when using DC fast charging with the SAE Combined Charging System can achieve an 80% charge in 30 minutes. Perhaps Honda itself realizes that the Clarity Electric isn't good enough to take on the EV establishment.

The electric Clarity is set to go on sale later this year in California and OR, with Honda promising "an attractive lease program" for the auto. Even the Electric's availability seems reluctant, as it will only be sold in California and OR to begin.


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