Honda announced today that its Clarity sedan, a fuel cell vehicle that runs on hydrogen, will also be available in both plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions. The hydrogen model will launch first, later this year, while the other two models will come in 2017.
Along with Toyota's Mirai, Honda has been dabbling in hydrogen power for years, fueled in part by strong support from the Japanese government in the development of fuel cells. But hydrogen faces an enormous uphill battle in most parts of the world — including the US, where the refueling infrastructure simply doesn't exist. A handful of stations are being built across California and additional stations are promised in the Northeast, but for most of the country, it isn't a practical solution.
This could become a trend in the alt-fuel vehicle world
For that reason, Honda may be hedging its bets with the Clarity by rolling it out in multiple powertrain flavors. This could become a trend in the alt-fuel vehicle world: Hyundai is doing something similar with the Ioniq that's launching later this year, and Toyota has long offered the Prius in both traditional hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants.
Honda says that the plug-in hybrid Clarity will offer over 40 miles of range on electric power alone — which puts it well into Chevy Volt "extended-range electric" territory — but there's no word on how far the full EV model will go between charges. A number of vehicles with ranges between 80 and 150 miles are already on the market, but 200-plus-mile EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 are widely seen as the first "practical" electric cars from a range and price perspective.