The 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell sedan has received a 68 mpg-equivalent fuel efficiency rating from the EPA for combined city and highway driving, giving the futuristic hydrogen-electric car a segment-leading range of 366 miles per fill-up.
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The Clarity, launches later this year with leasing – no sales yet – through a dozen California dealerships. The five-passenger sedan is the third generation fuel-cell vehicle for Honda, which was the first automaker to offer a fuel cell vehicle for real-world field testing. The limited-production FCX was launched in 2002 in California and Japan, followed in 2008 by the FCX Clarity.
The 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell (the FCX was dropped because it is no longer considered an experimental car), is the first in a family of Clarity alternative energy sedans. Honda has said it will introduce both battery electric and plug-in hybrid versions of the mid-size sedan in 2017.
Unlike battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars, fuel cell-electric cars don’t have batteries that need to be recharged. They produce their electricity on-board in their fuel cell stacks, using hydrogen as the energy carrier. Fuel cell cars use compressed hydrogen that is measured by weight, in kilograms, instead of by volume in gallons, with one kilogram containing the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline – thus their EPA ratings are given as an mpg equivalent, or mpg-e.
The Clarity Fuel Cell initially will be available at six Honda dealerships in Southern California, five in the Silicon Valley-San Francisco Bay Area and one near Sacramento, the state capital.
Honda is following Hyundai and Toyota into the retail fuel cell vehicle market. All have limited sales and leasing to California for now because almost all of the publicly available hydrogen filling stations in the country are located in the state. A hydrogen station network is being developed in the Northeast, however, to serve the Connecticut-New York corridor, and the automakers are expected to begin marketing their fuel cell vehicles in that region fairly soon.
The EPA fuel efficiency rating for the 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell will give it the longest range of the three hydrogen-electric cars in the market.
Hyundai’s Tucson fuel cell vehicle, a compact crossover SUV introduced in 2014, is rated at 59 mpg-e (combined) with a per-tank range of 265 miles, while Toyota’s 2017 Mirai sedan, introduced earlier this year, is rated at 66 mpg-e (combined) and 312 miles per fill-up.
Honda has priced a 36-month Clarity Fuel Cell lease at $499 a month, which includes fuel and maintenance. Hyundai leases the Tuscon FCEV for $499 a month and Toyota recently dropped the lease price of its Mirai fuel cell sedan to $349 a month from $499.