First Drive: Honda Clarity

With fossil fuels in an undeniable decline and electric cars on the rise, new ways of harnessing clean energy are highly sought-after.

Honda hopes to cash in on this trend with its new Clarity range of alternatively powered cars. AOL Cars visited Denmark to see this electrifying vision of the future.

What is it?

Honda's Clarity range will eventually include three cars – a full EV, a plug-in hybrid and a hydrogen model, the latter of which has been around for a few years now.

What we have here is the new and improved version of the hydrogen car. It's not actually for sale yet, but is being tested as part of Honda's fleet. The plan is for it to appear in showrooms after development testing ends in 2022.

What's under the bonnet?

The clarity is somewhat unique for a hydrogen-powered car in that the entire powertrain sits under the bonnet, with the fuel cell stack and drive unit packaged together in a configuration that's just a tad smaller than Honda's 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine.

Air and hydrogen are fed into the unit as the fuel cells generate electricity. A voltage control unit boosts the voltage and supplies the drive unit with electricity. Lithium-ion batteries beneath the cabin store electricity and provide it to the drive unit to boost performance under acceleration. The end result of all this technological gubbins is a power output of 174bhp and 300Nm of torque.

What's the spec like?

At this point, we normally assess the different trim levels of the car we're reviewing and judge its value for money, but because the Honda Clarity isn't actually on sale yet, that proves a tad problematic. A few lucky long-term Honda customers are being offered the opportunity to run one, but that's it for the next five years or so. We predict the Clarity will cost somewhere around the £60,000 mark.

Any rivals?

There are currently only two other hydrogen cars in production – the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai ix35 FCEV. The Mirai is on sale in the UK with a starting price of £65,219, while the ix35 is £53,015.

What's it like to drive?

The Clarity drives pretty much like any normal electric car. It's largely silent, except for some whirring sounds during deceleration due to the regenerative braking system.

There's adequate power available for both cruising along and overtaking on a motorway. Responsiveness is actually improved in comparison to a standard electric car thanks to the fuel cell and battery combination.

AOL Cars Verdict

Honda's biggest hurdle with its push for hydrogen-powered transport is infrastructure. Currently in the UK there are only a handful of filling stations, but if the initiatives Honda and other manufacturers are working on are successful, that number will grow and make fuel cell cars a viable alternative.

As for the car? Well, the perhaps underwhelming verdict from behind the wheel is that the future drives a lot like the past. However, the silence of electrification is always welcome, while the low running costs and undeniable green credentials will also appeal. The future of the car is promising.

The Knowledge

Power (bhp): 174

Torque (Nm): 300

Max speed (mph): 103

0-60mph: 8.8 seconds

Range (miles): 403 (NEDC claimed)

Emissions (g/km): 0

Price: N/A

First Drive: Honda Clarity
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First Drive: Honda Clarity

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