A plug-in hybrid includes both a large battery and a gasoline-powered engine. It plugs in to charge like an all-electric car, but, when the battery is exhausted, the regular engine kicks in and gives a much-extended range for longer journeys. I own a Chevy Volt and through 6,000 miles of driving, my wife and I filled the tank only three times because most of our driving was done within its 53-mile electric range.
The Clarity, which will arrive at Honda dealers nationwide later this year, has a 17-kilowatt hour battery pack paired with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that both charges the battery and can directly power the wheels as well under certain conditions. Honda says the total battery-and-gasoline range will be around 330 miles — but a quick trip to the gas station and you can keep driving. The plug-in Clarity should be able to fully charge its battery pack from a 240-volt outlet in 2.5 hours (around 90 minutes faster than the Volt).
Honda is actually making three different variants of the Clarity, Honda’s model name for its most environmentally friendly vehicles. There’s the plug-in hybrid, a hydrogen fuel cell version only available in California, and a surprisingly short-ranged (official numbers not released) electric-only Clarity that comes with a 25.5-kWh battery and will only be available in California and Oregon.
All three Honda Clarity cars will launch later this year.