PHOTO CAPTION: 2016 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell EV

Honda Begins Gen II Clarity Sales

Second generation Clarity Fuel Cell said to have 30% greater driving range on compressed hydrogen.

Published: 16-Mar-2016

Honda was the first OEM to lease a hydrogen fuel cell car (FCV) to consumers, the original Clarity FCX. While only a relative handful were built, it gave the company the opportunity to learn a great deal about not only how consumers interacted with fuel cell-powered cars, but how it reacted in the 'real world.' While other companies -- GM, Mercedes-Benz, and most recently Toyota and Hyundai -- have introduced their own hydrogen fuel cell models through either demonstration programs or geographically-limited leases, Honda has steadily worked to improve the technology they first introduced in the original FCX well over a decade ago.

Now the company has begun sales of its second generation Clarity, starting in Japan. The initial 200 units, which carry a price tag of 7.66 million yen (US$67,000), will be leased to selected businesses and government agencies there. Honda says it will begin US sales in California later in the year. Pricing is thought to be around $60,000 with monthly lease payments under $500, according to ABC News.

Various improvements have found their way into the car starting with a 30% improvement in driving range. The car's two front and rear tanks hold some 141 liters of compressed hydrogen (70 MPa/10,000psi), giving it an impressive zero-emission range estimated up to 750 km (470 miles). Presumably this is based on the less-demanding Japanese drive cycle.

Last year Toyota began leasing it's Mirai fuel cell sedan in California with a price tag of US$57,000, placing an additional strain on the few available hydrogen refilling stations now in operation, only 19 of which are listed on the US Energy Department website. Writing for CheatSheet.com, Eric Shaal pessimistically reports...

Looking at the Southern California stations on the map Toyota displays for Mirai shoppers, only two hydrogen stations were labeled open in the LA area, with another six in the “soft open” department. Another 18 are expected to come online in the area by the end of 2016. Dozens more are in the permit process, with authorization dates unknown.

For now, customers hoping to get into a fuel cell vehicle have to get lucky. Hyundai has over 100 Tucson fuel cell models on the road. After four months of Mirai sales, Toyota has 113 on the road, according to InsideEVs. Until the fueling issues are fixed, fuel cell vehicles are beyond a tough sell. They are impossible to consider.

So, while FCEVs like the Clarity and Mirai offer a handful of drivers a greener driving choice, one with similar range characteristics to ICE-age models, it appears now the biggest obstacle is no longer price, but the hydrogen fueling infrastructure needed to support them.

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