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).
Count Honda among the dwindling number of automakers that believe a sudden market shift to electric drive technology is little more than a pipe dream. As you read yesterday, the company’s CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, is on the record as saying, “I do not believe there will be a dramatic increase in demand for battery vehicles, and I believe this situation is true globally.”
While rival automakers like Toyota, Mazda, and Subaru have teamed up to advance their electrified ambitions, Honda chose to take it slow and go its own way. Its efforts have already born fruit, and continue to do so. Honda was the first automaker with a mass-market hybrid, but the ensuing two decades has seen the automaker temper its expectations of a fickle, gas-loving public. The brand’s product reflects its outlook.
So, how’s that product doing?
By that, we mean the figure “199,” not the overall cost of leasing. Moving on…
Honda’s only true EV, the Clarity Electric, began arriving at dealers in California and Oregon Thursday, completing a green trifecta that includes a plug-in hybrid variant and hydrogen fuel cell model. It also carries a lease price that undercuts its rivals by quite a bit.
While Clarity EV lessees stand to pay significantly less for their eco-conscious ride, both up front and on a monthly basis, they’d best familiarize themselves with the location of charging stations.
Back in December, Matthew Guy penned an interesting QOTD post soliciting your picks for the most outrageous new car introduction. In the case of the new-for-1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Bob Lutz drove Chrysler’s new (and important) SUV up a set of stairs at Cobo Hall and through a plate glass window. History revealed the hype to be justified: the Grand Cherokee became an instant success, finding its way into suburban middle-class driveways across America.
Sometimes, though, the new product doesn’t live up to the manufacturer’s hype before introduction. Let’s talk disappointment.
(In keeping with our goal of providing interesting and varied content, we sometimes bring you stories published by TTAC’s sister sites that we feel will satisfy your discerning tastes. This first drive review of Honda’s Clarity plug-in hybrid comes to us from a familiar name. It was first published by Hybrid Cars.)
Honda has rolled out its newest salvo in the effort to wean drivers off gasoline.
In a three-pronged approach, a team simultaneously deploys multiple solutions to solve a particular problem. We see this tactic at work when your humble author tries to assemble furniture or harried parents attempt to get their toddler to eat dinner.
Rather than placing all their eggs in one particular alternative-fuel basket, Honda has decided to pursue a cadre of options: a plug-in hybrid, a battery-powered all-electric, and a hydrogen fuel cell car. So confident are they in their gambit, the company has developed a car that can be equipped with either of these three powertrains.
The machine you see here is the Honda Clarity.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in our universe and hydrogen-powered vehicles produce only a single emission: water. It’s no wonder a handful automakers have touted it as the next-step in “sustainable” transportation, because it looks great upon a cursory examination. But it hasn’t held up under increased scrutiny and numerous manufacturers have been highly critical of fuel cell cars.
Earlier this year, Jaguar Land Rover’s technical design director called hydrogen-powered vehicles a disaster in practical efficiency. Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk went even further, calling the technology “incredibly dumb.” More recently, VW Group also hinted that it thought there wasn’t going to be much of a future for fuel cells. Matthias Mueller’s address at the Frankfurt Auto Show was heavy on electrification and light on hydrogen, with Audi spearheading the technology.
Although, if president of Audi of America Scott Keogh is to be believed, it looks to be a rather dull spear they are using.
Honda primarily uses the Clarity to prove its faith in the future of hydrogen-powered vehicles, but it doesn’t sell very many of the fuel-cell equipped cars — and those that are on the road are limited to the California coast. As one of the few hydrogen offerings in North America, the Clarity has broadened its role to encompass any form of alternative fueling. Wednesday at the 2017 New York Auto Show, Honda shed more light on the hydrogen-free EV variant of the Clarity, as well as its new plug-in hybrid.
That ought to boost Clarity sales to previously unfathomable levels. Honda is setting a U.S. target of 75,000 units over the first four years, a quadrupling of the company’s current electrified vehicle output. However, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to its EV sales goal of two-thirds of all light vehicle deliveries by 2030.
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.
Telling someone that you can run a car on hydrogen — a greenhouse gas — and emit clean water as the singular byproduct is already an extremely novel concept. You don’t need a laser light display or sideshow antics to make that fact more interesting or palatable. In the case of Honda, you absolutely do not need to include the disembodied heads of singing children bathed in light. In fact, the actual message might even become partially lost in the abyss of confusion you’ve created as people furrow their brows and wonder if someone has snuck a psychoactive drug into their beverage.
For reasons clearer to hired visual artist Adam Pesapane than myself, the 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell ad campaign uses a central theme of floating heads — frequently representing chemical compounds and molecular structures. The end result is as informative as it is unsettling, though it heavily favors the latter.
If you were thinking a vehicle manufacturer backed by a billionaire with a futuristic hyper-car concept and hundreds of millions of dollars in government tax incentives wouldn’t have problems paying the bills, you would be wrong.
That, Hyundai executives are taking a “voluntary” cut in pay, German prosecutors could be letting Volkswagen’s top brass off the hook, and Honda markets a car you can only drive in California… after the break!
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