By on February 27, 2017

Honda Clarity

No one likes worrying about running out of charged particles while driving through a sketchy neighborhood late at night. If you’re a green car aficionado and hold this fear above that of spiders, death and public speaking, you’d best look somewhere other than Honda for your next battery-powered vehicle.

A report states that the all-electric version of Honda’s upcoming Clarity, which will forever live in the technological shadow of its fuel cell-powered sibling, sports an embarrassingly short range. 

According to Automotive News, when the Clarity EV goes on sale this spring, it’s not likely to be snapped up by buyers with exurban commutes or those who like long, aimless drives in the country. That’s because the Clarity packs just 80 miles of range. Very retro.

While it doesn’t have the worst range in the EV marketplace — that distinction goes to the cartoonish Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which sold a total of zero units in January — the Clarity ties with the upgraded-for-2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive as the second-lowest-ranged EV. Unlike that model, the Clarity at least has a proper backseat. Still, venerable EV nameplates like the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric now sport 100 miles or more of range, while the Chevrolet Bolt manages 238 miles.

So, what’s the deal with the lackluster driving radius? It all comes down to the limitations of the vehicle’s architecture, explains the automaker. The vehicle’s platform was built with a fuel cell powerplant in mind (as well as a plug-in hybrid variant), leaving precious little room to place an expansive battery pack.

Not only that, but the vehicle’s advanced composition, coupled with a bigger battery, would create a unpalatable price gap between it and its competitors. The estimated price of the Clarity EV is $35,000 before tax credits.

“A pillar of the Honda brand is affordability, and if Honda came out with some obscenely priced long-range electric car, what does that do for the brand?” Steve Center, vice president of environmental business development at American Honda Motor, told Automotive News. “Most of our customers would not be able to acquire it.”

The Clarity is larger than its low-end and mid-range competitors, which, coupled with the price, makes Honda believe that buyers will still consider the vehicle on their EV shopping lists. Maybe thumbing your nose at range anxiety will become the newest form of brawny American machismo.

[Image: Honda]

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28 Comments on “It’s Not the Absolute Worst, But the Honda Clarity EV’s Range Won’t Wow Anyone...”


  • avatar
    RS

    Will there be an EPA mandated minimum EV Range soon?

    Something like: EV’s should get at least 100 miles/charge by 2018 and 200 miles/charge by 2020, etc. Why should gas vehicles have all the fun regulations?

  • avatar

    ““A pillar of the Honda brand is affordability, and if Honda came out with some obscenely priced long-range electric car, what does that do for the brand?”

    Sounds like that makes sense, except Honda’s competitors *can* make an EV that does considerably more miles per charge for the same or less money.

    If the 80 mile per charge Clarity EV was priced at $20k I’d totally agree with the pricing strategy. Not sure it would sell, but at least the price would match the pricing maxim Honda have set for themselves.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The Honda brand is also a pillar of hybrid/EV market failures since 1999 so no reason to end the streak now.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Don’t get it. They should have waited until they could compete straight across with the Ioniq EV.

    Not every EV needs to be a 200-mile Bolt or Tesla. But 80 is uncomfortably short for a lot of daily usage scenarios. I’m thinking particularly of Wednesday of this week, when our C-Max will make a 120-mile series of trips to, among other things, take my wife to a meeting she has to attend in a neighboring city about 45 miles away. It’s not a road trip, it’s not a commute, it’s just a long series of errands. That’s about the longest my driving day ever gets outside of a road trip; 150 miles of real-world range would be fine. But 80 isn’t.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Looks like Honda went all in on fuel cells…at the wrong time.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      There’s never a right time for hydrogen. Another website noted a proposal to use hydrogen fuel in aircraft. The website included a famous photo of the Hindenberg in flames.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Poor car is so ugly it’s trying to blind itself with its own chrome strip.

    “Don’t drive me past any big windows… PLEASE!”

  • avatar

    I drove a fuel cell Clarity at Consumer Reports’ test track some years ago. It was like an idealized version of a ’60s era Buick, just a very beautifully put together car which, while not sporty, was very pleasant to drive. But 80 miles for the EV? Sad!

  • avatar

    I drove a fuel cell Clarity at Consumer Reports’ test track some years ago. It was like an idealized version of a ’60s era Buick, just a very beautifully put together car which, while not sporty, was very pleasant to drive. But 80 miles for the EV? Sad!

    I’m guessing Honda is making these to conform to the California Air Resources Board (CARB [not carburetor]) and doesn’t plan on making a lot of them.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      +1 Honda Clarity Compliance Car.

      But it also reminds me that car makers cannot simply retrofit EV tech into ICE / hybrid designs and expect good results. EV design needs planning. And the Honda Clarity simply shows that Tesla adds value.

  • avatar
    mcs

    There are already spy shots of the 200+ mile Leaf and I think Hyundai has said they’ll have a 200 mile version of the Ioniq. While most drivers, including myself, can get by with 100 mile range, 200 gives us the ability to for the most part not have to depend on public charging.

    There are rumors that Nissan will go after the competing 200 mile EVs on price. The Clarity doesn’t have a chance.

  • avatar
    markogts

    “A pillar of the Honda brand is affordability”

    That’s why we believe in the cheap solution of fuel cells…

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Rather than swing for the fence ,Once again Honda has chosen to bunt. It’s been quite awhile since Honda actually set the bar when it comes to Automobiles. Why won’t the automobile journalists call Honda out on their failures?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I can see this with total clarity, DOA in the showroom beyond the spawning salmon who will buy anything Honda.

  • avatar
    Asdf

    An EV that’s dead on arrival… just like every other modern day EV launched so far.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    80 miles would work for my work commute in April and September. How much of a hit in range do you take when it is below zero and the windows frosted over, or rain is freezing on the windows?

  • avatar
    SimRacingDan

    Having just bought a 2015 Nissan Leaf 2 weeks ago, I concur that this is kind of crazy. I mean, the official 87 mile range of the Leaf is perfect for my daily commute and errands, but I also only paid $10500 for it, so my expectations are set appropriately.

    The other thing they don’t tell you about EVs is that their batteries degrade over time, and that range diminishes significantly in winter and bad weather, and highway speeds. So your 80 mile range might actually be 40 miles on a snowy day in January.

    Again, I love my Leaf and highly recommend it to people who have another car available to them…. But for $35k before tax incentives you can do a whole lot better than this Honda.

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