As those of us who are entrenched in the day to day of the electric vehicle march know all too well, two notable automotive leaders have not only almost completely dismissed EVs, but have staunchly headed in a different direction, down the path leading to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Recent news from one of these leaders — Honda — reveals that it has taken a shot of lithium to the arm and is bracing for a ramp up into battery electric vehicles. It has announced two new versions of the Honda Clarity line — a Honda Clarity Electric and a Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid Electric.
The Great Honda Clarity Expansion
With the Honda Clarity having only been a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the addition of a fully battery-electric and a plug-in hybrid electric introduces two completely new vehicles to the platform. While the Clarity Fuel Cell and the Clarity Electric could conceivably share the same electric drivetrain, the introduction of a pure battery electric is a stark diversion from the hydrogen-only push we have seen from Honda in the past.
The new vehicles are slated to be available in 2017, with the Honda Clarity Electric arriving on the scene first — sometime in 2017, with availability likely limited to ZEV states.
The Plug-in Hybrid version will also arrive in 2017, boasting an all-electric range (AER) of over 40 miles. It is expected to be the top seller of the family. This makes sense, as PHEVs requires minimal lifestyle change when upgrading from conventional internal combustion vehicles. It feels and functions more like a hybrid … but with the option to plug in to extend the all-electric range of the vehicle and drive on the cheap.
As with the entrenched competitor, the Chevy Volt, the Clarity PHEV will be available in all 50 states, which is a great step forward in promoting electric vehicles to the masses, especially with a car that gets 40 miles (or more) of all-electric range.
The Clarity Platform
We had a chance to explore the Honda Clarity at the Los Angeles Auto Show back in September and found it to be a very large vehicle with a futuristic interior. The only real beef with the car was that it had two large hydrogen tanks and a massive fuel cell stack under the hood. Cutting the car over to batteries gets me a bit excited about the future of Honda.
What remains to be seen is whether or not Honda goes the easy route and simply replaces the fuel cell equipment with batteries in the same locations or if it takes the high road and optimizes the vehicle in light of the significant changes that come with the addition of ~15–60 kilowatt-hours of batteries and a motor for the PHEV.
Honda’s New Future
Tucked down at the bottom of the press release, as if Honda were embarrassed at the admission, is this bombshell (emphasis mine):
“In addition to the Clarity series, a reengineered 2017 Accord Hybrid will go on-sale this spring, delivering both top-of-class power and fuel efficiency in a midsize hybrid sedan, as Honda seeks to grow sales of electrified vehicles – hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles. On a global basis, Honda is aiming to have electrified vehicles account for two-thirds of its vehicles sales around 2030.”
While it’s clear that Honda’s love affair with the hydrogen fuel cell is far from over, the introduction of two new electric vehicles that are much more practical than their hydrogen-powered counterpart is fantastic news. Though, the brand still has a ways to go to become a truly viable competitor in what is shaping up to be a very competitive global EV market.
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