Honda Brings Clarity to its Fuel Cell Plans

New Honda fuel cell model goes on sale first in Japan — North America and Europe will follow.

Since releasing its first delivered fuel cell model in 2002, Honda has quietly been making plans for broadening availability in line with the development of hydrogen fueling infrastructures in Japan and as well as in California.

The original FCX — Fuel Cell eXperimental — was a three-door, four-seat hatchback developed in very limited quantities and offered to customers in Japan and in Southern California. In 2008, the hatchback was replaced by the FCX Clarity, a midsize sedan with room for four. The second model improved upon the original’s 190-mile hydrogen range to deliver 240 miles of fuel cell range.

Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Arriving March 2016: Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

2015 Tokyo Motor Show

With various concepts, prototypes and limited production fuel cell models behind it, Honda has once again presented another fuel cell model, dubbed the Clarity Fuel Cell. Introduced at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show this week, the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell offers room for five and a driving range of 435 miles. The all-new hydrogen-powered sedan will go on sale in Japan next March; an initial annual output of just 200 units is expected.

Significant improvements over the previous generation model have yielded a vehicle with 60 percent longer range. The new fuel stack is 33 percent smaller than its predecessor with 100 kW output attained and with much greater energy density. Honda says the new fuel pack is as compact as a V6 engine, enabling it to consolidate it under the hood for the first time. Energy is stored in a lithium-ion battery; refueling takes about three minutes. Water vapor is this vehicle’s only emission.

Previously, the fuel pack was located below the seats, thus limiting the interior room to four people. With its dimensions similar to the outgoing model and aligning closely with the midsize Honda Accord sedan, the extra seat placement will certainly come in handy.

Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Price

Honda says that the Clarify Fuel Cell will cost 7.66 million yen which converts to $63,644 as of publication. That’s about $5,000 more than the competing Toyota Mirai, a fuel cell vehicle just now going on sale. The Clarity is slightly larger than the Mirai and has an 8 percent longer driving range than the Toyota.

US Honda consumers won’t be able to get the Clarify Fuel Cell, at least not initially. Honda intends to deliver its initial batch of vehicles to Japanese government entities and businesses. The automaker says it will “…collect information about the in-market use situation, including the external power feeding device, and gather diverse opinions from customers and other relevant organizations, then later begin sales to individual customers.” Sales will later spread to the United States and Europe, although a timeline has not be released.

US consumers desiring a fuel cell vehicle are currently limited to the Hyundai Tucson FCEV, the Toyota Mirai, Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL, and the upcoming BMW i8 Coupe and the 5 Series Gran Turismo. Even so, those models are restricted to Southern California where the barebones of a hydrogen infrastructure should flesh out to a more robust framework. Toyota plans to eventually roll out its Mirai in the northeast US.

Currently Available Tax Credits and Rebates

US customers who manage to land a fuel cell vehicle are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit. Another $6,500 state rebate for low and moderate income California families drops that price further. Wealthier California residents are still eligible for a $5,000 rebate on fuel cell vehicles, but for those making over $250,000, tax rebates on battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have been eliminated.

Once again, the high cost of buying an alternate fuel vehicle weights in. And with no nationwide infrastructure planned, fuel cell vehicles may long remain a niche segment within the tiny EV sphere.

See Also — Crumbling Chevrolet Sonic Sales Leads to Layoffs

Photo copyright Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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