You want something green and electric but don’t have Tesla Model S or Model X levels of cash to spend. Well, your answer might just have arrived, and I mean literally arrived at your local Honda dealership. At least if that dealership is in California or Oregon.
In a lot of ways, the problem with Tesla’s products isn’t range or battery depletion, it’s cost. Amazing and livable as the Model S and X are, they are expensive. Very expensive. Like, new Porsche expensive.
And, if you’re a serious gearhead like us here at One Automoblog Towers, would you rather buy a Tesla, with all that lovely torque at zero rpm, or would you rather buy a new Porsche? Yeah, us too.
But move down-market a tad and things could become much more palatable to consumers. This is, of course, what Tesla is trying to do with its Model 3 (just hitting customers as we speak). And this is exactly the spot, more or less, where the Honda Clarity Electric fits. The Clarity Electric, however, has the built-in virtue of being a Honda, a known entity with Dealerships spread far and wide across this continent, unlike Tesla, which sorely lacks representation in big chunks of America. Did you know Honda has a dealership in Fairbanks, Alaska? They do. Do you know where you can talk to a Tesla dealer in Alaska? You can’t. There are no Tesla dealers in Alaska.
So what is this? What, pray tell, is the Honda Clarity? The thumbnail sketch is that the Clarity is a range of three hybrid/electric cars (a sedan, actually) with new drivetrain technology. The Clarity is actually a car line unto itself. You can get Clarity plug-in hybrids later this year and, as of last December, you could get a Clarity Fuel Cell model. And now, at least in two states, there’s the full-blown Honda Clarity Electric.
The Honda Clarity is the first-ever vehicle series that offers an array of electrified powertrains. It’s sort of like if you could get a Prius that was just electric, or a hybrid. Seems like a smart marketing move on Honda’s part. Although the Clarity has its fair share of styling quirks, it’s not nearly as space-ship goofy looking as a Prius or a BMW i3. Honda calls it “sophisticated,” which it probably is, since Honda works this stuff to the Nth degree.
Still, it’s a five-seat sedan that would be hard to spot as anything unique in the mall parking lot. The only real way to tell the Clarity Electric apart from other Clarity models is by the Cobalt Blue Pearl color and slightly different front styling.
The Clarity is also the thin edge of the wedge (to use a military term) of something referred to as the “Honda Electrification Initiative.” That, in turn, is going to be Honda’s bridge to more efficient and cleaner cars in the years ahead. Honda wants two-thirds of their global automobile sales coming from electrified vehicles by 2030, so get ready.
Power & Performance
The Clarity Electric sedan is motivated by a 161 horsepower (120 kilowatt) electric motor that cranks out 221 lb-ft. of torque. As with all electric motors, there is no torque “curve” to speak of. All 221 lb-ft. of torque will literally be available at zero rpm, smoking the tires to great effect once you find a way around the traction control system. NOTE: We here at One Automoblog Towers do not advocate doing that with this, or any other new EV. It will, no doubt, violate your warranty, get you in trouble, get you a stern talking to in the principal’s office, that sort of thing. Although fairness compels us to mention that certain members of the Automoblog staff have done stuff like this, and it’s a total blast.
At any rate, the Honda Clarity gets the juice for its electric motor from a 25.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The Clarity Electric can be fully charged in a little over three hours with a 240 volt system, using the DC fast charging with the SAE Combined Charging System. You can achieve an 80 percent charge in just 30 minutes if you don’t have much time to wait around. The “fuel” economy figures work out to 126 city, 103 highway, and 114 combined MPGe, with an EPA range rating of 89 miles on a full charge. Not a lot of distance, but more than enough for day to day, around town sort of stuff.
In a lot of ways, if it wasn’t for the EV drivetrain, the Clarity Electric is pretty normal. It is, from the inside, a spacious and comfortable sedan suited for daily driving needs. It comes in a premium Touring trim and is loaded with all the technology and safety features consumers expect today. There’s a lot of gizmos inside including an 8-inch Display Audio setup with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance technologies.
Pricing & Availability
Honda doesn’t explicitly mention the price of the 2017 Honda Clarity Electric sedan, since it seems to be a lease only kind of thing. A fairly smart, if conservative business strategy here, since it will be easier to get them all back if you decide to quit the whole plan, or things don’t work out the way you like. The introductory lease runs you $269 a month for 36 months via select dealerships in California and Oregon. The lease gives you an allowance of 20,000 miles per year and 24/7 roadside assistance (a nice perk).
That $269 does reflect the federal tax credit. At signing, if you want to get down to the bottom line here, you’ll be on the hook for $1,730 down, plus the first month’s payment less tax, registration, and/or other fees. California and Oregon customers may qualify for state rebates of $2,500.
Is Honda’s Clarity Electric for you? That’s up to you to decide, but it’s not worth dismissing out of hand if you are in the market for an electric vehicle.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.