Honda has killed the limited production Clarity line of fuel-cell electric, battery-electric and hybrid sedans, but says it will be back in 2024 with its first high-volume EVs, the Prologue SUV for the Honda brand and an as yet unnamed electric SUV for the Acura brand.
The company is aiming to have EVs – battery and fuel-cell – make up 100 percent of its new vehicle sales in the U.S. by 2040.
The Honda SUV is scheduled to hit the market in early 2024. The Acura won’t likely show up until later that calendar year, but possibly as a 2025 model.
Honda hasn’t provided much information about the vehicles, but did say it expects Prologue production – and sales – to slot between its popular Pilot and Passport SUVs. Small and mid-size SUVs and crossovers are the hottest part of the market now – for EVs as well as gas burners – so that’s likely the size range in which the Prologue and its Acura sibling will fall.
Both the SUVs will use the General Motors-developed Ultium batteries and EV platform. Honda and GM have an EV development partnership agreement.
The difference between the Honda and Acura EVs and the GM vehicles using the same Ultium system will be in body and interior design. Mechanically, the two SUVs will share a lot of the same components and characteristics as the new GM EVs, including the Cadillac Lyriq.
Honda said that later in the last half of the decade it will introduce EV models using new electric vehicle-specific architecture from a Honda-led project in the joint development pact.
A vehicle architecture defines the physical, electrical and mechanical parameters of the various models that can be built from it.
The automaker’s current electrified model line – the Clarity trio – has never been a big success. Honda doesn’t break out individual powertrain sales for the Clarity lineup but said total sales in 2020 fell to just 4,215, down from 11, 654 in 2019. The pace in 2021 is even slower, with just under 1,900 Clarity models sold through May. The three Clarity sedans were launched in the U.S. in 2017.
The Clarity EV, dropped in 2020, was sold only in a few markets in California and Oregon and had only 89 miles of range.
The Clarity plug-in hybrid, with 48 miles of all-electric range and a 42-mpg rating from the EPA when operating as a hybrid, was considered the better choice by consumers who had the opportunity to try it – but they were few and far between. The sedan was marketed nationwide, but apparently not aggressively enough.
The Clarity FCEV – which used a hydrogen fuel-cell to produce electricity – boasted more than 300 miles of range. It suffered from limited availability – of the car and the hydrogen fuel-stock it needed. Almost all of the retail hydrogen stations in the U.S. are in California, so the Clarity FCEV was sold only in urban California markets. Lack of consumer understanding of fuel cell vehicles hurt as well.
Honda said production of the remaining Clarity models – the PHEV and FCEV – will end in August.