Honda last month announced the recall of 1,082 Clarity Fuel Cell vehicles from the 2017 and 2018 model years—all in California.
The recall issue relates to an electric water pump that wasn’t properly treated for corrosion. If the component becomes corroded over time it may result in a low-pressure warning for the system—allowing it to be driven for a short distance on reduced power—or a water-pump failure, which could lead to a shutdown of the fuel-cell stack and a sudden loss of power. A failure warning would prevent the vehicle from being restarted.
The recall underscores a key difference between fuel-cell and battery-electric vehicles. Although they both use electric motors and power systems to move the wheels, and have regenerative braking systems that lengthen the life of brake pads, there’s typically a little more maintenance involved in fuel-cell vehicles.
Most modern sealed, liquid-cooled battery packs are maintenance-free, but the same can’t be said of today’s fuel-cell vehicles.
The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, for instance, requires the regular replacement of an ion exchange filter, plus replacement at specific maintenance intervals of its coolant, called fuel-cell insulating fluid. Special accommodations need to be made in safely working around the hydrogen stored on board.
Honda continues to bet long-term on the larger adoption of fuel-cell vehicles, and is working on a next generation of the technology together with GM, due as soon as next year.
2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
The recall specifically covers 911 vehicles from the 2017 model year and 171 vehicles from the 2018 model year, built through February 28, 2018. New 2019 Clarity Fuel Cell models are unaffected. Honda said in recall documents and a release on the issue that it’s aware of any related crashes or injuries.
This isn’t the first time the Clarity Fuel Cell has been recalled; Honda has issued separate recalls for 2017 and 2018 models, both related to an issue in which the electronic control unit software would erroneously shut down the stack, leading to a sudden loss of power.
According to Honda, 100 percent of Clarity Fuel Cells covered by this water-pump recall contain the defective part, and it will do the repair for free. Honda has the replacement parts and says that it has already notified customers, who can contact the company with any questions at 888-234-2138.