The 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is an electric sedan that’s powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell. It needs to be fueled with hydrogen from a specialized station and doesn’t need to be charged
The Clarity went on sale in Japan in spring of 2016, and will reach the U.S. in late 2016. It will then only be offered in California in limited quantities.
The Clarity Fuel Cell is the next in a long line of ‘FCX fuel-cell vehicles that Honda has been building since 1999.
Styling and design
The 2017 Honda Clarity is around 193 inches long and about the same as the Honda Accord mid-size sedan.
The Clarity has a ‘kammback’ design similar to high-efficiency green cars; the rakish fastback profile has a bit of a lift, with a prominent lip spoiler at the tail. The greenhouse tapers at the rear, to aid aerodynamics. The Clarity includes lightweight aerodynamic wheels, underbody aero panels and an extra rear window to help with rear visibility and for a larger trunk.
Inside, the Clarity’s passenger space is divided into four spots. A small shifter allows easy selection of forward, reverse, neutral, or park modes. The dash itself is similar to other current Honda models, with the instrument panel offering a futuristic, energy-focused layout, and trims and door handles also offer a futuristic style different from the other models.
Performance, efficiency, and Fuel Cells 101
The Clarity Fuel Cell is powered by an electric motor system, making 174 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The electricity that powers it comes from a fuel cell by a sophisticated system that includes a lithium-ion battery pack.
The science of a hydrogen fuel-cell stack, which incorporates many layers of proton exchange membrane cells, connected in series, produces a high-voltage output. In these cells, hydrogen gas is passed over the electrode, generating an electron in a reaction with platinum used in the electrode. That hydrogen ion passes through an electrolytic membrane, joining with oxygen, from the electrode, and delivering the electron to a circuit plus water vapor. A control system feeds hydrogen, from a high-pressure tank, into the fuel-cell stack, while a control system recycles as much air and water vapor as is needed to keep the environment at its most efficient.
The 2017 Honda Clarity uses Honda’s latest version of its so-called V Flow fuel-cell stack, packaged in the vehicle’s center tunnel, while the new lithium-ion battery pack fits under the rear seat. With this generation of the fuel-cell stack—V is for vertical orientation—Honda has introduced a vertical cell stack, for greater stability, improved cooling, and reduced size and weight. Through careful modeling of the geometry and the spacing of the channels between the cells (with special wave-flow channels), Honda has been able to gain another ten percent in generating performance versus the one used in the FCX. And overall, including cooling and ancillaries, Honda calls the system “more unified,” with fewer pieces and better packaging. And it allows startup at temperatures as cold as -22 degrees Fahrenheit.
The fuel cell runs most of the time that the vehicle is moving; meanwhile, a lithium-ion battery pack helps capture energy from braking—or unused energy created by the fuel cell—and stores it away, to be released when it’s needed for efficiency or sudden power demands.
Honda claims that the Honda Clarity is three times as efficient as a typical compact gasoline vehicle and twice as efficient as a compact hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle.
Comfort and utility
The Clarity is built on a uni-body construction, with a double-wishbone suspension and has electric power steering. Honda says that this model’s turning radius is just 17.7 feet.
Honda has engineered the Clarity in accordance with its “man maximum, machine minimum” design philosophy. There’s seating for four adults and the cabin is described as “elegant yet futuristic”. The interior is made of a plant-derived Honda Bio-Fabric, the front seats are climate-controlled and there is also a tilt/telescopic steering wheel.
There are drink holders for each occupant, as well as various trays, storage cubbies and under-trunk storage. The trunk is 11.1 cubic feet.
Safety and features
As compared with Safety features of similar models on the market, the Clarity has side-curtain airbags, front side airbags, frontal airbags, a Collision Mitigation Brake System, traction and stability control and Adaptive Cruise Control is also included. There are also other features to make sure the hydrogen fuel source is safe for crashes and fender-benders, and for everyday driving.