Builder Jim Salomon of Newport Beach, California, the third person to lease a Honda FCX Clarity back in 2009, is still driving one—his third car—six years later. During a recent transition period while waiting for an FCX delivery, he deeply felt its absence—even though his garage also includes everything from a 1963 split-window Corvette fuelie and a Mercedes E-Class convertible to a pair of Ford GTs.
“It was my first time without a Clarity in six years,” said Salomon, who pays $600 a month on his three-year leases. “I went through serious withdrawal, and I’m so happy that my latest one was delivered in December. It’s more like gliding than driving. It’s even quieter than some Mercedes vehicles I had in the past.” It’s unlikely anyone else has put 40,000 to 60,000 miles on Honda fuel-cell cars.
As readers of H2Gurus are well aware, the long-running FCX Clarity is due to be replaced by the FCV, which made its North American debut as a concept vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show in January. The actual FCV will launch next year, following its planned March 2016 debut in Japan.
Geography favors Salomon as a Honda FCX test driver, since affluent Newport Beach (also home to many Teslas) is ground zero for hydrogen. The Shell station Toyota accessed for its Toyota Mirai introduction is just down the road from his house, and there’s another station near his office. That’s the access some electric car owners have now, and for hydrogen now it’s only really possible in and around Los Angeles.
Salomon loves the five- to seven-minute fills, and has actually encountered fueling traffic jams when others are ahead of him in line. “I used to be the only guy in Orange County with a fuel-cell car, but not anymore,” he said. “Now I’m sharing the stations with people. It’s quite exciting to see how rapidly they’re opening the stations.” Salomon says that Air Products deserves special credit for excellent station maintenance.
He’s never run out of gas, despite his tendency to drive the FCX on fumes, and has managed 270 miles on a tankful. Actually, he’s sure that if he really pushed it more than 300 miles would be possible.
“I’m not the typical FCX Clarity driver,” said Salomon. “I don’t have any range anxiety—instead, I’ve got quite a lot of confidence in the car.” Fuel-cell cars typically have double the fuel efficiency of internal combustion, and Salomon has seen 90 mpg from his cars, with an average of 45 to 48.
Asked if there’s anything negative to say about his FCX Clarity, Salomon can’t come up with much. It’s not the car he’d take on a long trip, because the hydrogen infrastructure outside LA is skeletal. And “some people bitch about the manual seats,” he said. “But I never anticipated an environmentally themed car having features like that. The bottom line is that I’ve never had a problem with my Claritys, which have generally been much more reliable than my other cars. There really isn’t much to go wrong.”