Honda’s hydrogen-powered Clarity FCV is getting two new siblings, with plug-in and all-electric versions of the futuristic sedan making their debut at the New York International Auto Show.
Honda will be one of the first makers to offer a range of three different green powertrain options for the same model, two of those being entirely emissions-free. They will help anchor the Japanese maker’s goal of having two-thirds of its global sales generated by electrified vehicles by 2030.
“The Honda Clarity is aimed at accelerating the deployment of advanced electrified powertrain technology and bringing electrified vehicles further into the mainstream,” said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co., during an NYIAS press conference. “The Clarity series also heralds the advancement of our Honda Electrification Initiative, representing our investment in the full spectrum of electric-vehicle technologies.”
Honda’s strategy with the Clarity family reflects the widespread belief that there is no so-called “silver bullet,” no single environmentally friendly alternative to the time-tested internal combustion. Instead, there are expected to be a variety of alternatives, each better suited to a particular customer or market.
(Click Here for a test drive of the Honda Clarity FCV.)
“These are the first major steps toward our corporate goal of having two-thirds of our sales come from electrified vehicles by 2030,” said Steve Center, Honda’s U.S. environmental chief, during the introduction.
The Clarity FCV, which only recently went on sale at select dealers in Californima, is seen by some as the ultimate in green technology. Its fuel-cell stack combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce water vapor and a flow of electric current to power the vehicle’s electric motors. A tank of hydrogen is estimated to deliver more than 300 miles range, and a fill-up takes less than five minutes. The drawback is that there are only a handful of hydrogen pumps in the U.S., right now, most in California, limiting sales.
Like the FCV, the Clarity Electric is entirely emissions-free, using a 25.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack to run its motors. Also like the hydrogen model, it promises to deliver quick off-the-line acceleration due to the torquey nature of electric motors. The drivetrain produces 161 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque.
On the plus side, the EPA rates the Honda Clarity Electric at 120 Miles-Per-Gallon-equivalent, or MPGe, in the city, 102 on the highway and 111 combined. The downside is that the lithium pack is actually on the small side for a pure battery-electric model, generating only 80 miles per charge, nearly a third-less than the latest version of the Nissan Leaf and barely one-third the range of the all-new Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Honda officials insist that is enough to satisfy the daily needs of the vast majority of American commuters, though industry research shows that potential buyers increasingly expect range of at least double what the Clarity Electric will deliver, meaning demand is likely to be marginal. One thing that could improve the Electric’s appeal is that it can plug into a Level 3 charger, getting an 80% “fill-up” in about 20 minutes.
(Click Here to check out the new Honda Civic Si.)
The third member of the Honda Clarity family will be a Plug-in Hybrid. The third-largest Japanese maker is billing this as “the sales volume leader in the Clarity line-up.”
At 42 miles per charge of its 17 kWh lithium-ion pack, it will deliver an estimated 42 miles per charge, or slightly more than half that of the Clarity Electric. The plug-in will then be able to fire up its 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine to keep running as long as there’s gasoline in its tank – an estimated 330 miles before a fill-up.
The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid makes 181 horsepower and a maximum 232 lb-ft of torque with both the gas and electric drive systems kicking in. It will charge up in about 2.5 hours on a 240-volt Level 2 charger.
The Plug-in will be offered nationwide, going on sale later this year, according to Honda. The Clarity Electric will launch about the same time, but will be limited, at least initially, to two key West Coast states, California and Oregon, where EV demand is highest and there’s a reasonable large installed base of Level 2 and Level 3 public charging stations.
(Feds may soon roll back mileage rules – could curb EV, plug-in demand. Click Here for the latest.)