By on March 9, 2020

Honda has discontinued sales of its Clarity EV in North America for 2020. Given that the manufacturer was one of the few OEMs to publicly express doubts about rampant electrification, this shouldn’t come as a complete surprise — with any residual shock being nullified by the model’s lackluster demand.

Between the Clarity Electric, (hydrogen) Fuel Cell, and Plug-In Hybrid models, Honda only saw 11,654 U.S. deliveries last year. That’s a marked decline against the 20,000 units sold in 2018 and a hint as to why the EV has been quietly put out to pasture. Most of those sales undoubtedly went to the nationally available Clarity Hybrid. Fueling restrictions have locked the hydrogen variant to California, with the Electric similarly being isolated to the Golden State and Oregon (the Beaver State). 

According to Green Car Reports, Honda confirmed that it abandoned the car at the start of this year. It also removed the Clarity Electric from its consumer sites in Japan and Canada. That leaves the company with no battery-only offerings until the Honda E arrives in Europe and Japan this summer. While originally planned for North America as well, the business ultimately decided the electric city car wasn’t suited for the market — something that might also have been true for the Clarity.

Drivers on this continent tend to cover more ground in a single trip, making range anxiety a serious issue for prospective EV buyers. The Clarity attempted to get around this with relatively swift recharging times. With help from DC fast-charging ports, Honda said the Electric could recoup 80 percent of its maximum charge in just 30 minutes. The model’s 25.5-KWh battery was also extremely efficient for its size, but positively microscopic when compared to the packs found in other EVs. As a result, the Clarity’s official range was only 89 miles.

While a relative bargain at just $199 per month with less than a grand down for a three-year lease, the Clarity Electric’s abysmal range pigeonholed it as an urban commuter. Lacking versatility, we imagine a lot of customers opted for the Hybrid or took their money elsewhere. But don’t take this as a signal that Honda is getting out of the EV market. The Clarity always seemed like an attempt to test various powertrain types on the public, rather than a serious attempt to draw in new customers.

The company has said it intends to make the majority of its vehicle electrified (at least to some degree) by 2030. However, this might not look exactly the same as what other manufacturers are proposing. While many automakers are scaling down displacement as they hunt for a way to supplant BEVs as the dominant vehicle type, Honda has been adamant that consumers will only care about the resulting efficiencies stemming from battery tech. From a corporate standpoint, its singularly interested in maximizing fuel economy.

That mindset has encouraged the automaker to remain focused on hybridization and further improving internal combustion engines, rather than sinking its wealth into battery development. Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo has also said that complicating the customer experience with long charging times isn’t desirable. He believes electrification has to broadly benefit the user experience to hold any real value and worries that the slow take rate of many EVs is the direct result of this being ignored. By staying with hybrids, Honda thinks it can cater to the environmental regulations of multiple markets without having to stick out its neck to fickle consumers.

[Images: Honda]

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30 Comments on “Hide and Seek: Honda Clarity Electric Discontinued for 2020...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    89 miles? Man, that thing should have been selling like crazy!

    /s

    • 0 avatar

      If only I knew that it existed I would lease one (okay it is a joke). But Honda is known for its engines and not that much for anything else. Without ICE Honda proposition does not make much sense. Electric motor will become the great equalizer. Taiwanese and Chinese automakers will be on a killing spree taking over global markets.

  • avatar
    forward_look

    In the next _?__ years electrics will be vastly improved, thus tanking the values of this year’s models.

    Around these parts, you can’t find a dealer who has one to test drive, sit in, or sell. And you can’t get them fixed.

    Outside of that, yeah, EVs are great.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Maybe the Clarity Electric simply wasn’t an appealing car in any aspect. Just looking at it is boring and that appears to be true across the board, including the Hybrid and FC versions.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I’ve only seen one in the wild and I thought it was very small in physical size, and not at all appealing (before I knew it was a Clarity) and my guess is that someone was test-driving it because it had TX dealer plates on it.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Considering the short range on the BEV and the many issues with the hydrogen refill stations, I am by no means surprised at the low sales. Honda simply goofed with both appearances and capabilities.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “We don’t think our EV will sell well”
    “Therefore, let’s not build too many”
    “And let’s not put too much cost into making it competitive”

    “Hey, look, we hardly sold any Clarity EVs”
    “Let’s kill it off”

    “Therefore, EVs are a dead end”

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    There are two folks here at work that drive the plug-in variant. To say that it’s ugly and overwrought would be an understatement.

    Electric cars will catch on eventually, just not this one.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    Another car gets the Axe. Soon to be joined by the Acura RLX.
    Now sports.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    The Honda whatity-what?

  • avatar

    Several overseas manufacturers have now scrapped their North AMerica EV plans.

    This reveals three facts.

    1. They can’t compete with Tesla.
    2. They were only building compliance vehicles anyhow. Now compliance has eased in the US no need to worry yourself about that anymore.
    3. Compliance is getting tighter in Europe. Divert compliance EV’s to Europe.

    And one prediction.
    1. The US will be a nation of gasholes way longer than any other nation.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “And one prediction.
      1. The US will be a nation of gasholes way longer than any other nation.”

      I could not envision my automotive future any other way.

      While I believe that we should enjoy choice in what to buy and what to drive, I cannot buy a range-limited vehicle that requires longer than 15 minutes to “fill’r up.”

      I hope to buy a Rivian R1T later this year but it will not be my primary vehicle. Just a vehicle to run around the city with, for up to several hundred miles before having to recharge it for hours and hours.

      • 0 avatar
        forward_look

        Well, you have to sleep sometime. You probably don’t have a gasoline pump in your garage, so that 20 seconds plugging it in and recharging overnight will seem a lot more convenient.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          forward_look, maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my comment.

          When my wife and I travel, like from El Paso, TX, to San Diego, CA, using I-10 + I-8, we do so in one run of as much as 13 hours, depending on traffic, with only gas and pee stops.

          So an EV truck like the Rivian R1T is great for running around the El Paso, TX, area, but not so whoopee for driving from El Paso, TX to San Diego, CA, like we did in my Tundra or my wife’s Sequoia.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Why? Are you assuming you’ll be stopping more often and for longer than you already do? The Rivian is projecting similar unloaded range as your older Toyotas and if you combine gas stop with restroom and snack stops, you should lose very little time compared to those. The only difference will be in finding the chargers and if the Rivian doesn’t already come with a Nav app that can point those out to you, I’m sure your phone can fill that information in. That’s especially true if you travel by freeway. Of course, I personally prefer Tesla’s Superchargers as they are well located for most of my trips (even though I don’t own an EV) and my typical stops for refueling my ICE tend to be at about the same locations as every third Supercharger along those routes… which a 390-mile Model S should achieve easily (and still leave about 60-90 miles of reserve range, just as I do in my truck/cars.)

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Vulpine, a very dear friend of mine last year drove his Tesla from Vidalia, CA to Littleton, CO, and back; the first long-distance trip since taking delivery of his new Tesla.

            It took him TWICE as long as the same trip he took in his truck the year before.

            He had his charging stops laid out, like 87% here, 67% there, 45% somewhere else, etc.

            There is a difference between a 15-minute gas-up and pee-stop, and charging a BEV to get to that magic battery percentage that will get you to your next charging stop, if a charger is even available when you get there.

            My friend impaled these words of wisdom about EVs in my brain, “Great to run around in within its range, but not so hot for long trips beyond its range.”

            I believe he referred to the “forced” stops to recharge the battery to a certain percentage level to get to the next charging stop, since it takes hours to fully charge the upper 15% or so of the battery.

            That’s when you sleep on it.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @hdc: I can’t speak for everyone, obviously; individual driving habits will change how a vehicle performs in the long run. I made a drive myself through the desert a long, long time ago in a V8 powered Dodge Aspen. This was back in the 55mph speed limit days. Over a 600-mile stretch between Phoenix, AZ and Amarillo, TX on I-40, I was passed by one car no fewer than five times going over 80mph, myself making only two stops for fuel and spending one hour at each stop to eat, drink and stretch my legs. I achieved over 25mpg in a car notorious for averaging less than 18mpg on the highway. In that trip I achieved right at 2000 miles traveled in 48 hours, including all stops.

            My point? That unlike you and your friend, I’m not afraid of traveling a little slower because in the long run you get there just as fast. I’ll admit I used to be a lead foot myself but after getting two speeding tickets on a single run as a young driver, I’ve insisted on USING cruise control to stabilize my speed and my fuel usage and achieving longer runs needing fewer refueling stops while avoiding the critical eye of the highway patrol. I would wager I could make the same trip only losing one or two hours at most over the course of your friend’s California to Colorado trip each direction.

            And as an electronics technician and instructor over my career, I fully understand the 70% rule and how to work within those ‘limitations’ that worked against your friend. Your friend obviously wasted time trying to top off his charge rather than limiting his charge to roughly 80% each time. Sure, that my shorten his ‘range’ per charge but each charge’s hook-up time is reduced by about 20 minutes while only losing about 40 miles of range.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “1. They can’t compete with Tesla.
      2. They were only building compliance vehicles anyhow. Now compliance has eased in the US no need to worry yourself about that anymore.
      3. Compliance is getting tighter in Europe. Divert compliance EV’s to Europe.”

      Or: They realize nobody other than the Elon Musk Fan Club wants EVs right now.

  • avatar
    amca

    Killed by sheer ugliness.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    The EV market in the U.S. is roughly 3.5% of all sales and half of that is in California. Further Tesla has 77% of the U.S EV market. Honda only moved 20,000 EV’s in their best year and that fell by half last year.

    That is not much of a market opportunity

    In the meantime, the price of a barrel of oil hit $30.20 today, and car sales are going slump all over the world.

    I don’t think Honda is making an error in abandoning the pure EV marketplace.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @Lokki: In the meantime, the price of a barrel of oil hit $30.20 today

      That’s so large oil producers/countries can eliminate competition. Once they’re gone, they’ll crank prices up.

      The EV market may be small now, but battery technology is moving rapidly and we’re close to a technology that can rapidly increase acceptance. Nothing exotic, just electrode coating improvements, but it’s something that can be relatively easy to bring to mass production. Batteries are on a steady path to lighter weight and lower cost. Lighter weight means that for a given range, you can go to a lower capacity battery and effectively decrease the charging time. Motors are getting much lighter too. Meanwhile, charging infrastructure keeps improving.

      The danger for Honda is that if they get too far behind the competition, they’ll never catch up when the market shift to EVs happens. It’s better to work things out with new technology when it’s only a few percentage points of the market vs. scrambling to catch up when it’s a third of the market.

      It’s also not just the Koreans, Chinese, and Tesla that are ahead in EVs. Toyota is there too, just keeping really quiet about it. They’ve been filing solid-state battery patents while distracting everyone with the hydrogen thing. They’re unveiling a solid-state battery car as part of the Olympic opening ceremonies. It’s still not in mass production, but that’s coming.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Honda is a smart company. I much prefer actually reducing real world emissions than placating EV crazy politicians. A bunch of boring hybrids people actually buy will do way more to save the environment than a handful of EVs languishing on lots.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The consolidation of Honda’s production landscape continues, with the automaker announcing Tuesday that it will cease production of passenger vehicles in Argentina next year. Honda builds the subcompact HR-V at its Campana assembly plant; come 2020, the facility will revert back to building only motorcycles.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    “While many automakers are scaling down displacement as they hunt for a way to supplant BEVs as the dominant vehicle type,”

    Um. What? BEVs are pretty much the polar opposite of “the dominant vehicle type”.

  • avatar

    Wait until GM starts culling their EVs a decade from now. By that time Barra will be in the Roger Smith hall of shame.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Fender skirts = bad juju.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    1. Range sucks; but more importantly
    2. This car is hideous looking. Matches the Prius for “bastard step-child” status.

  • avatar
    forward_look

    Need to start with a clean sheet to design an optimum EV. Not just shove batteries in a ICE car.

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