2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
The 2017 Honda Clarity is a mid-size four-door sedan that will ultimately be offered with three different powertrains.
The Clarity Fuel Cell, the first version to launch, will be powered by electricity generated by an onboard fuel cell fed by compressed hydrogen.
Then, next year, two more versions will be added: a Clarity Electric, with a large battery pack powering its electric motor, and a plug-in hybrid with at least 40 miles of electric range.
The 2017 Clarity powered by the hydrogen fuel cellwill go on sale before the end of 2016 in selected regions of California where hydrogen fueling stations are now up and running.
Honda has said it expects to sell only a few hundred units in the car's first year, roughly comparable to the Toyota Mirai sedan and the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, the only other two hydrogen-powered vehicles now on sale.
2017 Honda Clarity prototype testing in Southern California, July 2016 [photo: Sean Alarid]
Earlier this year, Honda acknowledged that its long-promised new battery-electric and plug-in hybrid models would be based on the Clarity.
The company has not yet specified many details or explained how different those two vehicles might be from the hydrogen-powered Clarity Fuel Cell.
Honda has previously said the hydrogen-powered Clarity will cost "around $60,000."
That may be slightly more than the Toyota Mirai, which carries a base price before incentives of $57,500, though the Clarity appears to have five seats while the Mirai has only four.
2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
It's not yet known whether Honda will follow the lead of Hyundai and Toyota in offering three years' worth of free hydrogen fuel to Clarity Fuel Cell buyers and lessees.
The Clarity's entire powertrain--including the fuel-cell stack and electric traction motor--is compact enough to fit entirely under the hood.
The two storage tanks for hydrogen compressed to 10,000 psi are located under the rear seat and between the rear wheels at the front of the trunk. There's a small lithium-ion battery pack in the floor as well.
The Clarity's electric traction motor is rated at 174 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, producing an estimated 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of about 9 seconds.
2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell with American Honda's John Mendel, Apr 2016
On the Japanese test cycle, its hydrogen capacity provides 434 miles of range, meaning that the Clarity could achieve around 300 miles of EPA-rated range. The Toyota Mirai is rated at 312 miles.
The other two versions, the Clarity Electric and Clarity Plug-In, seem likely to launch as 2018 models. Honda has said it expects the Plug-In to be by far the best-selling Clarity model.
It has called the Clarity Electric "the first affordable, midsize, five-passenger battery-electric vehicle to offer premium content and features," but not specified its price.
Even less is known about the Clarity Plug-In, although it would be logical to expect it to use the same 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and twin-motor hybrid system as the recently launched 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid.