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Honda - Fcx Clarity

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Honda Fcx Clarity Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle.

Clarity, a hydrogen fuel-cell electric car, has been around since 2008 and now is in its final lap. In many ways, it seems brand-new.

There will be a new Honda fuel-cell car in 2015, the year that automakers have decided they will begin to commercialize hydrogen machines — at least in California, where there are publicly accessible fuel stations.

Honda could argue it's been there, done that.

Honda undertook to make Clarity a real car, not a modified something, or an experimental something else. It's built in a factory in Japan, has most modern comfort, convenience and electronic safety items, and drives about as well as a car five years newer.

The four-door car is about the size and weight of an Accord. The hydrogen tank takes up some trunk space, but a large storage bin under the floor helps compensate.

If the Clarity has been around so long, why have you probably never seen one? Because only about 25 are on the road at any given time, and they're in and around Los Angeles, where those hydrogen pumps are clustered.

California has a plan to have 68 fueling sites open in the next couple of years. The price for setting up a hydrogen station has come down to $1 million, Honda says, from $4 million about five years ago. The time to get permits and construct one is down to two years or less, Honda says, from four a few years ago, when General Motors was trying to help get stations open.

GM has done considerable research on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, and had a fleet of fuel-cell Chevrolet Equinoxes rotated through consumers' hands in a trial.

An advantage over plug-in electric cars is that fuel-cell cars can go almost as far as gasoline cars between fill-ups, which are done at pumps somewhat like gasoline pumps.

Plus, it takes about the same time to refill a hydrogen tank as a gasoline tank.

A kilogram of hydrogen is considered equivalent to a gallon of gasoline, and will power a car two or three times farther than a gallon of gas.

There's no settled price for passenger-car hydrogen, yet; it's estimated that it will be roughly twice the price of gasoline once there are enough fuel-cell cars to create demand.

Thus, you won't save a fortune on fuel costs. The main appeal of a fuel-cell car initially is likely to be the novelty, in addition to the lack of pollution.

Compared with driving a conventional car, what's different in a Clarity is a noisy start-up ritual. That's from the air compressor that forces oxygen through the fuel-cell membranes with hydrogen to produce electricity and leave only water vapor as exhaust.

The compressor comes on even when the car's off and parked to purge any leftovers, mainly water, from the system to be ready for the next start. You'll hear the compressor whoosh and the electric motor whine when you jump on the throttle.

Steve Ellis, Honda's manager of fuel-cell vehicle sales and marketing, says engineers are ready to dramatically reduce the noise in the next generation.

Beyond new noises, driving feels pretty conventional.

Acceleration is strong at low speed, less so at higher speeds, which is typical of electric cars. The motors make most of their power the minute they begin to turn.

Revving them faster isn't helpful, as it is in a gasoline vehicle.

The chassis is stable, preventing much body lean, but the car has a front-heavy feel due to its front-drive layout.

The regenerative brakes have the unnatural feel of many electric cars, but seem sure and powerful. Steering has a notchy feel, rather than the smoothness of today's electric power steering — another sign of the car's age.

The dashboard more than serves, but would be considered a bit button-heavy by some of today's buyers (not button-loving Test Drive, though). The connectivity set-up has been updated trying to stay current with new smartphones.

A fat paddle on the dashboard is the electronic gearshift.

Seats are comfy, though the "bio" upholstery that goes with the eco-friendly theme of the car is a bit rough and lacks a premium appearance. It sits fine, though. There's only room for two in back because the fuel-cell hardware runs down the middle.

Test Drive long has wondered if Honda is being too conservative.

Instead of trickling out Clarity cars and fussing about the lessees, perhaps it should crank out hundreds, perhaps thousands, and lease them wherever there are public hydrogen stations (Oklahoma has a fair number).

The current model, though on the way out, remains an impressive car — never mind what fuels it — and still is capable of pleasing a lot of people.

Perhaps that's what we'll see in 2015, when the industry ramps up the effort to get fuel-cell cars on the road.

source USAtoday


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Listing Details

EV-Model
Fcx Clarity
EV-Propulsion
HEV - Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Year EV-Release
2016
 

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