TodayApril 15, 2022

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle FCX

A Honda fuel cell vehicle

Not everyone is going to be able to drive a fuel cell vehicle (FCV), but for the people that can, the Honda Clarity has a great deal for you. For those that can purchase a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) or Electric Vehicle (BEV) hold tight, only Honda has the ability to bring out a BEV, PHEV or FCV today, and they are doing that.

Honda believes that Society’s need for dramatic CO2 reductions is real and immediate; they said so in the briefing. They also believe that “fuel cells have the greatest long-term potential to solve society’s environment and energy concerns.”

Hydrogen is already produced in the United States, mixed with petroleum to refine it into gasoline by a process called cracking. Currently, Southern California is the home of the fuel cell vehicle because it is the only place one can publically obtain hydrogen. The Hydrogen Highway that former Governor Schwarzenegger touted still hasn’t been built, but it is back on the map.

The Honda Clarity is a very drivable car, and as Stephen Ellis, Manager of Fuel Cell Marketing for American Honda Motor Company, said, “the remarkability of the car is that it drives like any other car.” If there is one person you can point to in Honda that is responsible for Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle business planning and FCX Clarity deployment, it would be Ellis. They should have a vial of his sweat in every car made.

Fuel cells have come a long way – when Honda first started researching fuel cells, the tanks and technology took up so much room you could only fit 1.5 people in a large van. Today Honda is bringing out a 5-door sedan with a large cargo trunk.

The third-generation Honda Clarity is a new generation of quiet. I drove the Toyota Mirai and the Honda Clarity back-to-back and could hear the whirring of the motor from the Mirai. Quiet and no odiferous smell of gasoline, remember Hydrogen has no odor, similar to CNG.

The quietness comes from the 30% reduction in the number of individual cells combined with the 33% reduction in the overall fuel-cell package. Along with a 20% thinner and redesigned cooling structure, and air inlets built into each side of the car. The downsizing allows engineers to switch from a vertical to horizontal layout for the stack and rotate the unit 90-degrees with the hydrogen tanks in the back.

2017 Honda Clarity FCX with Honda original fuel cell stack and related components (shown).
2017 Honda Clarity FCX with Honda original fuel cell stack and related components (shown).

Think of the drivability and safety suite in the Honda Accord. The chassis is not the same, the interior is different, but the Honda drivability and safety are there. The biggest difference is how and where you will get your fuel-cell energy, hydrogen energy.

No one technology will serve all of our issues. Most Americans understand that we need to diversify, that cities and communities need an energy portfolio and customers need to have choices.

The Honda Clarity takes 5.4kg of hydrogen to fill the HondaClarity at $16.47/kg. Each kilogram is the equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. Since the Clarity is only available for lease a Federal tax credit of $7,500 is not available. Honda gives owners $15,000 worth of fuel as part of the $369/month lease, with a $5,000 California rebate. Oh, and don’t forget that all-precious HOV lane. It is worth its weight in, well, hydrogen.

It takes about 5 min to fill the Honda Clarity fuel cell tank. Jim Burrell, Assistant Vice President Environment American Honda told us that the hydrogen price is about to drop to $9.99/kg, which would be equivalent to $55 to fill the Clarity for 366 miles based on a 68-mpg (3.5 L/100 km) combined fuel-economy rating. At the same time, Tesla has stopped giving energy for free; Honda is giving owners $15,000 worth of fuel as part of the $369/month lease.

First Element is the first hydrogen provider to lower the price to $9.99 a kilogram. There are thirteen public fuel stations in Southern California, twenty-six public stations in California. Funding has been approved for sixty-six more stations, twenty before 2017, forty-six total by the end of 2017. Funding is in place for twenty more stations.

According to about 9 million metric tons of hydrogen are produced in the United States annually. Honda helped me figure out that the Clarity will use 200 kilograms per year per car. That would equal 45,000,000 cars that could be fueled for an entire year, driving 12,000 miles a year. I’m not expecting anywhere near that many cars to go hydrogen; I just want to point out how much hydrogen is available to energize cars.

California has been promising car companies that they would create the Hydrogen Highway. The economic downfall of 2008 halted that endeavor, but this year California has put up $100,000,000, and both Toyota and Honda have put up $13,500,000 to kickstart that Hydrogen Highway. Toyota has already sold 1,000 Mirais, Honda has sold eighty Clarity fuel cell vehicles in 2.5 months, mainly in Southern California. They are expecting 100 deliveries by the end of March and projecting 50-60 leases per month going forward. Honda has signed a memorandum of understanding with General Motors to build fuel cell stacks in Michigan starting in 2020. The investment has already been made.

Also read: Where does the hydrogen come from Mommy?

Competitor: Toyota Mirai

Engineering of 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) Operating Range -22°F to 221°F
Power Output 103kW
Size 33 liters
Weight 114 lbs
Lithium-Ion Battery Output 346 volts
AC Permanent-Magnet Synchronous Electric Motor
Horsepower (SAE net) 174 @ 4501-9028 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 221 lb-ft @ 0-3500 rpm
Electric Parking Brake with Automatic Brake Hold

CARB Emissions Rating
Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV)

EPA MILEAGE RATINGS/FUEL and MSRP of the 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Miles-Per-Gallon Equivalent (MPGe), (City/Highway/Combined)(2) 69 / 67 / 68
Driving Range Rating 366
Fuel Tank Capacity 5.46 kg
Fuel Tank Pressure 70 MPa / 10,000 psi
Required Fuel Compressed Gaseous Hydrogen

Transmission Fixed Single Speed
MSRP (1) $58,490

1. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) excluding tax, license, registration, $875 destination charge, and options. Currently available at select Honda dealers for lease only. Details are available here.

2. 69 city / 67 highway / 68 combined miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent (MPGe) rating; 366-mile driving range rating. Based on the 2017 EPA ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your MPGe and driving range will vary based on driving and maintaining your vehicle, driving conditions, powertrain conditions, and other factors.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.