Honda Clarity First Look

"The Honda Clarity is aimed at accelerating the deployment of advanced electrified powertrain technology and bringing electrified vehicles further into the mainstream", said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., at the company's auto show press conference. The company has previously announced plans to introduce a dedicated new hybrid vehicle to the United States market in 2018.

Honda will offer the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid in two trims - Touring and standard. It has a combined output of 181 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque from an electric motor and a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine.

The original Honda to wear the Clarity badge was a fuel-cell-only vehicle with US availability limited to hand-picked lessees in California.

And it's about to be joined by two new Clarity cars that don't run on hard-to-find hydrogen fuel.

While the versions are basically the same vehicle, Honda says each Clarity variant will have some distinguishing appearance touches, including an exclusive color, its own wheel design and some variations on lighting and front ends. Let's hope subsequent Clarity Electrics will be more compelling. Honda says the plug-in hybrid will be at dealerships later this year, and it expects that version to be the sales volume leader for the Clarity on its way to target sales of 75,000 in the first four model years. Honda expects the Clarity Electric to go for only about 80 miles on a single charge of its 25.5kWh battery, and that figure should drop even more if you gun that 161-horsepower electric motor for too long. Being a hybrid, it will offer drivers greater flexibility in fuel choices. Fueling stations cost up to $2 million to build, so companies have been reluctant to build them unless more fuel cell cars are on the road. The Honda lineup includes the Fit, Civic, Accord and Clarity Fuel Cell passenger cars, along with the HR-V, CR-V and Pilot sport/utility vehicles, the Ridgeline pickup and the Odyssey minivan. The Clarity Electric will launch later this year, starting with an attractive lease program in California and Oregon.

And it claims there is a big market for people who are ready to acknowledge they don't need the full range (most of them being current electric auto owners), but would like to get more room and better interiors for their money. Like the Electric, the price tag will be in the mid-$30,000 range, but the hybrid will be sold in all 50 states. Like the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, the Clarity Electric features three selectable driving modes - Normal, Econ and Sport.

Honda is estimating a total driving range of over 530 km, with fuel economy anticipated to be 2.24 litres per 100 kilometres. Even the Electric's availability seems reluctant, as it will only be sold in California and OR to begin.

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