Though the electric car gets all the attention, it's not the only forward-thinking vehicle around. Honda will begin selling the new version of the Clarity, its hydrogen fuel cell sedan, later this year.
The Clarity, which debuted at the Tokyo Auto Show last year before first appearing on US shores in November at the LA Auto Show, will hit limited dealers in LA, Orange County, the Bay Area, and Sacramento. It's a sedan with a rather pretty interior, but all the innovation is under the hood.
Instead of a traditional gasoline-powered engine, or a futuristic all-electric power plant, there's a futuristic hydrogen-powered engine. These advanced powertrains aren't new — Honda sold its first fuel cell vehicle in the US back in 2005 and they've been sold in the US, Germany, and Japan for years. In very simple terms, a fuel cell car turns hydrogen into electricity, with the only emission being water. Easy to explain, complicated to build.
But, the biggest problem isn't the technology itself (though these limited sales help Honda learn about real-world use of fuel cell vehicles at scale). Instead, it's building the distribution network for refueling. Hydrogen filling stations are rare, only common in the US in a few counties in California, making road trips even more difficult than with electric cars. If all-else fails, you can always plug your Model S into a regular outlet — there's no backup with a fuel cell car.
Regardless, Honda and a few other automakers (notably Toyota and Hyundai) keep quietly plugging away at the technology, thinking that it could be a futuristic alternative to the EV, especially if they can get a hydrogen fueling infrastructure set up across the country.
For now, California consumers in select areas will be able to lease the Clarity Fuel Cell for around $500 (Honda's targeted price, anyway), and get a driving range of over 300 miles. Deliveries should begin around the end of the year.