Hydrogen-powered cars are considered to be cutting-edge technology. But only a few with this technology are available in today’s market. The 2020 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is one of those cars and the only place you can get it is in California.
Why is this car so different from other alternative-fuel vehicles? And why is it only available to drivers in the Golden State? Let’s take a closer look at this very different Honda to answer these questions.
Two variants of the 2020 Honda Clarity
Honda offers two versions of its alternative-fuel vehicle: a plug-in hybrid model and a hydrogen fuel cell electric one. Both use electric motors, but the way they use them differs significantly.
According to CarandDriver.com, the 2020 Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid runs on a 181-hp electric motor backed by a 17.0 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. A 1.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine works as a generator for the battery. The maximum horsepower for the plug-in is rated at 174 hp and its maximum torque is 221 lb-ft.
The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell model is powered by a 174-hp electric motor that pulls electricity from the hydrogen fuel cell. The electric motor then drives the car’s wheels. The maximum horsepower rating for this version is 212 hp with a maximum torque of 99 lb-ft.
Car and Driver testers tried this Clarity out on the track and found that it clocked zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds. It’s faster than the other two hydrogen-powered cars on the market, the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo. They came in at 9.0 seconds and 9.5 seconds, respectively.
Other things you need to know about the hydrogen-powered Honda Clarity
The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell‘s range is 360 miles. The folks at Car and Driver warn that each person’s real-world driving style may decrease the Clarity’s range by quite a bit.
Similarly, the EPA rating for this car differs from real-life driving numbers. The hydrogen-powered Clarity measured 68 MPGe, with 68 city and 67 highway. The C and D testers were able to squeeze 57 MPGe from this Honda. This number is still better than the Toyota Mirai, which the EPA rates at 67 MPGe but received a real-world result of 48 MPGe in testing.
Like the Clarity plug-in hybrid, the hydrogen-powered version is an excellent touring sedan. And like the best-in-class Honda Accord, it has a comfortable ride and a quiet cabin.
This version of the Honda Clarity can accommodate bigger adults in its supportive front seats despite its wheelbase of 108.3 inches, which is about three inches short than its sibling the Accord’s wheelbase. The difference between the two cars shows up in the Clarity’s rear-seat legroom because it has four inches less of it. This model falls short on trunk capacity at only 11.8 cubic feet, in comparison to the plug-in hybrid version that has 15.5 cubic feet of space.
Both the plug-in and the hydrogen fuel cell configurations of the Honda Clarity have an 8.0-inch infotainment display as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. They both are equipped with two USB ports: a 1.5-amp input port for smartphone integration and a 1.0-amp input for audio playback and charging.
The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell also features a premium 12-speaker sound system. And this model’s Touring trim has a factory-installed navigation system.
What are the safety features?
Thus far, no crash test results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are available for either model. But both come standard with Honda Sensing, a suite of advanced safety features that include lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, automatic emergency braking, and forward-collision warning.
Another available safety feature, Honda LaneWatch, shows a camera image of what is in a driver’s blind spot when he or she uses a turn signal. Other safety options are a blind-spot information system, cross-traffic monitoring, and automatic high-beam headlights.
Why is the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell only available in California?
California is the only state in the country that has hydrogen fueling station infrastructure, and it’s limited mostly to the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego metropolitan areas. You will need to prove that you live and work in the state if you want to get this car.
Another thing to think about if you’re considering the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is that you have only one option, and that’s leasing it. You also won’t be able to take advantage of complimentary schedule maintenance as you would if you bought a Hyundai Nexo or a Toyota Mirai. Instead, Honda offers 21 days of complimentary car rental in case you need to travel outside of the Golden State.
So, if you live in California and you want to make the move to an alternative-fuel Honda that resembles a sporty, comfortable Accord, the 2020 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell just might be the right choice. In the meantime, the rest of us will have to wait until our states build some hydrogen fueling stations to get one.