It's Not the Absolute Worst, But the Honda Clarity EV's Range Won't Wow Anyone

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Feb 28, 2017

    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?

  • SimRacingDan SimRacingDan on Feb 28, 2017

    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.

  • Geozinger Put in the veggie garden (Western Michigan, we still can get frost this late in the year) finished the remainder of the landscaping updates and hand washed both my beater Pontiac and the Town and Country! Going to the beach today...
  • Rochester I wouldn't obsess over the rate of change, it's happening whether we want it or not.
  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.