Honda Launches its Fuel-Cell Car, and Calls it the Clarity

Honda Clarity  /   /  By Jim Motavalli
Honda has unveiled the production version of its fuel-cell car at the 44th Toyota Motor Show. Previously the FCV Concept, it’s now simply (and tentatively) the Clarity.The styling is distinctive, representing a toned-down version of the futuristic concept with a front-end treatment that’s well within the corporate design family (though the slit-like headlights are unique to the fuel-cell car). One observer said the greenhouse “takes on a Crosstour-like shape,” but it also bears faint echoes of the car that preceded it in the marketplace, the Toyota Mirai.Consumers will soon have three production fuel-cell cars to chose from, the Mirai, the Clarity and Hyundai’s Tucson. Honda isn’t offering any pricing or dates around the Clarity (which is targeted at the spring of 2016), but it does say that it has managed to fit the whole fuel-cell powertrain under the hood, thus enabling “a full cabin package that seats five adults comfortably.” And it promises a cruising range of more than 434 miles (700 kilometers). So much for range anxiety.Honda is also touting an interesting benefit of fuel-cell cars—their ability to act as mobile power plants. Plug in an external power feeding inverter, the company says, and the FCV can power a house during a blackout.Robert Rose, executive director of the Breakthrough Technologies Institute and a longtime hydrogen observer, said that the additional miniaturization of the fuel-cell stack in the FCV is “pretty significant.”

Rose added, “Every time we add a new fuel-cell car, it becomes more and more like a conventional competition. Toyota is talking about how fun to drive the cars are, Honda is promoting range and performance, and Hyundai is proclaiming that new models will be significantly cheaper. Together, it’s a sign of how mainstream these companies have become.”

Morry Markowitz, president and executive director of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, concurs. “The number of different manufacturers that are beginning to sell these vehicles in the marketplace demonstrates the growing confidence that the auto industry has in this zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) technology,” he said, “It is increasingly clear that fuel-cell electric vehicles are the only ZEV that will be available in the near term future that totally replicates the current driver’s experience of being able to drive 300 to more than 400 miles on a tank of fuel with the ability to refuel in three to five minutes.”

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