What would you pay to lease a smooth, quiet, comfortable, relatively luxurious mid-size electric sedan with only about 90 miles of range?
Honda hopes the answer is $269 a month with $1,730 down, on a three-year lease that takes advantage of the federal income-tax credit for electric-car purchase.
Pricing is now out for the 2017 Honda Clarity Electric, the battery-electric entry in the Clarity range that already includes a hydrogen fuel-cell model and will add a plug-in hybrid for 2018.
The all-electric Clarity is only available for lease; it can't be purchased, and we strongly suspect its volumes will be low—whether by design or due to its limited range and availability.
But the volume entry in the Clarity lineup, by Honda's own admission, will be the plug-in hybrid to arrive very late this year.
The electric Clarity sedan will be offered only by "select dealerships" in California and Oregon, Honda says.
2017 Honda Clarity Electric debuts at 2017 New York auto showEnlarge Photo
It's a nice enough vehicle within that range, we suspect, based on a short test drive last week at Honda's Tochigi R&D Center in Japan.
Like the hydrogen-powered Clarity, the electric version is smooth, quiet, and rides nicely. The interior gives the impression of a premium model, and is much nicer than lower-end Honda sedans.
Honda is clearly hoping that having the only large electric sedan except for Teslas at $70,000 and up will give it an edge in the limited markets it's targeting.
"The Clarity Electric is the only affordable five-passenger electric sedan with all the technology, and safety and premium features a consumer expects today," said the company's Steve Center, vice president of its Connected and Environmental Business Development Office.
It's powered by a 25.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack located behind the rear seat, in some of the space occupied by high-pressure hydrogen tanks in the Clarity Fuel Cell version.
The battery provides electricity to a 120-kilowatt (161-horsepower) electric motor that drives the front wheels.
The EPA rates its range at 89 miles on a full charge, and its combined energy efficiency is 114 MPGe.
Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, or MPGe, is a measure of how far a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.
A full recharge on a 240-volt Level 2 charging station takes about 3 hours, and Honda fits every Clarity Electric with a CCS fast-charging port, which allows an 80-percent recharge in roughly half an hour.
In the end, though, the Clarity Electric's limited range—in a model year when even the outgoing Nissan Leaf offers 107 miles—limited availability and lease-only status compel us to assign it to the category of "compliance car."
Whether that designation matters to the small number of lessees Honda will need to attract over the next few years remains to be seen.
Certainly there's some market for a large, comfortable, all-electric sedan even if it has only 90 miles of range. Honda will get some data on how large that market is, starting in August.