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Published on January 30th, 2018 | by Steve Hanley


The First 3,000 Miles In A Honda Clarity PHEV — A Reader Report

January 30th, 2018 by  

We have done a number of articles about the Honda Clarity PHEV recently, and that prompted Peter Eltgroth, who lives in northern Minnesota, to share his experiences with us as a new Clarity owner. He has driven it for about 3,000 miles so far — enough to form some useful impressions about his new ride. In general, people tend to trust what actual owners have to say more than hype from the marketing department, so you may find Peter’s thoughts helpful if you are considering getting a Clarity of your own.

Honda Clarity

“We have owned a Clarity PHEV since the beginning of December and it is probably the first one sold in Minnesota,” Pete writes. “We currently have about 3,000 miles on it, and while I have not kept detailed track of gas purchases, I know I have filled it 5 times, putting in 5.5 to 6 gallons each time.

“That’s about 30 gallons of gas so far. The digital readout on the dashboard says I am getting about 97 mpg. This seems pretty good given we had many days of below 0°F temperatures in December and January and that we are only using the provided Level 1 charger. I have purchased a Level 2 charger but it has not been installed yet. With Level 2 charging, I probably would have used half as much gas.

Peter has learned something about driving in cold weather these past few months. “As a first time electric/PHEV owner, the all electric range varies more widely than I anticipated depending on temperature. They sell it as up to 47 miles electric range; however, the best the car has estimated for me is 41 miles at 50°F and the worst is 20 miles at about -15°F. I anticipate when it is 60–80°F I will probably see the rated 47 mile electric range. Hence, I consider the ‘up to 47 mile range’ a bit deceiving. It would be better if Honda provided a table showing expected electric range at various temperatures.”

There’s a lot to like about the Clarity PHEV and Peter says he would buy another based on his experiences so far. Here’s a list of the things he likes best about his car:

  • The MPG and rarely having to buy gas. It is nice to just plug it in inside my heated garage at night rather than leaving it out in the cold. At my normal electric rate it costs me about $1.90 to fill the battery. Over the course of a year, I will spend considerably less for electricity than I would spend for gasoline to drive the same distance. And as the grid gets cleaner, driving on electricity will get cleaner as well.
  • It drives nice and is quiet and comfortable (see below for more on this subject).
  • Honda Sensing, especially adaptive cruise control with low speed follow. (No, it’s not a Tesla, but I needed a car in December, and there’s little to no charging infrastructure in many places I travel).
  • Android Auto.
  • Preconditioning is awesome when it is cold out.

The Clarity PHEV is not perfect. Here are some of the issues that Peter has identified:

  • If the car will not start when the battery reaches -20°F [as stated in the manual], I will be upset, as nighttime temperatures in Minnesota in late December and January were below -20°on numerous occasions this year. Some of those nights we were at events and had the car parked for hours outside in the cold.
  • When the temperature is single digits or below and the battery gets low, the gas engine can rev quite high and be pretty loud. I think this could be addressed with a software update so the engine starts a little sooner and transitions more gradually to hybrid mode. This last week I have put it in HV mode before the point where the car would automatically switch over to the gas engine and it hasn’t revved the engine nearly as high. But it also has been warmer outside. If we plunge back into negative temps, I’ll try it some more and see what happens.
  • In my opinion, the mechanism to spray wiper fluid that’s integrated into the wipers does not adequately get liquid high enough on the windshield unless I am traveling at 50 mph or more. Then the wind will push it up to help clear the space in front of the driver’s line of vision.
  • The touchscreen is a little underpowered or the software needs optimization. Mine has also momentarily cut the sound when streaming via Bluetooth (like a CD skipping way back when) when Lane Watch turns on, and it can be a little slow when switching between audio, phone, and information screens.
  • I wish I could configure the amount of regenerative braking I want and lock it in rather than having to flick the paddle every time. It should also be very easy to switch back because sometimes using the paddles is fun!
  • I want an application I can configure to automatically use the existing front and rear cameras as a dash cam system on a 3 or 5 minute recording loop. It should be completely seamless with perhaps only a small icon showing that it is running on the infotainment system.

Peter has these final thoughts on his Clarity PHEV. “The car is a pleasure to drive and own and we would buy it again. With a few software updates and optimizations it could be ever better.”

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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. His motto is, "Life is not measured by how many breaths we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away!" You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

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