On occasion, we journalists are allowed lớn step through the virtual time machine and sample a manufacturer"s greatest hits of yesteryear. You"ve seen the stories: new M3 versus BMW"s museum-piece E30 original! Well, Honda has its own collection – mostly regular old cars that should"ve been beat khổng lồ hell long ago, but instead are sitting there in showroom condition. There"s a teal "90 Accord wagon with dope plastic wheel covers with my name all over it. But today, that time machine"s going the other way. Sure, the headline & badge reads 2017 Honda Clarity, but it sure as heck looks, feels, & drives lượt thích a 2022 Honda Accord. The dimensions would be consistent with a next-next-generation midsize sedan, the look is familiar but evolutionarily advanced, and the cabin is different enough without being concept-car kooky. Oh yeah, và it"s powered by hydrogen. That"s obviously its most futuristic element, but Honda"s latest hydrogen fuel cell powertrain is also why the Clarity feels less like a low-volume science project of today & more like a regular car beamed in from tomorrow. Get behind the wheel & it accelerates like an electric car with no weird noises or sensations. The steering, the brakes, and the handling in general are Accord normal. Look around the cabin and you"ll see five seats uncompromised by odd bulges disguising powertrain components. Much as the real cars of năm ngoái didn"t fly, the ones from 2022 aren"t likely to be that
However, a hydrogen fuel cell car like the Clarity is
indeed different. Rather than a gasoline engine, there"s a stack of fuel cells packaged within a metal housing roughly the form size of a desktop computer. Within it, hydrogen & oxygen are chemically combined to lớn create the electricity needed to lớn move the car. Much like a regular hybrid, an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack augment that acceleration, and as you might recall from basic chemistry, the byproduct of combining H 2 & O is water. No smog-causing or climate-changing emissions. Those are the basics, but rest assured that this is the most complicated car powertrain you"ll ever come across. The press release reads more like Geordi LaForge than Honda Accord. "The four-phase drive, based on four SIC-IPM control phases staggered by 90 degrees, minimizes the ripple current by cancelling the current fluctuations generated by switching. This reduces the capacitance requirement for smoothing of ripple current, so a smaller capacitor is used on the primary side."
Acknowledged, Commander, good lớn know. But that technobabble ultimately describes one of the many enhancements developed for the new Fuel Cell Voltage Control Unit, or FCVCU, which together allows for the new Clarity"s packaging improvement & increased normalness. You see, the old electric motor, gearbox, and power control unit might have been under the hood, but the fuel cell was located vertically between the front seats. This, paired with a giant hydrogen tank in the trunk, meant that the car"s passenger compartment and general usability were compromised by its powertrain of tomorrow. Now, not so much. All of the componentry that was previously under the hood has been tilted forward 90 degrees, allowing for the new, more compact fuel cell to lớn be sandwiched horizontally between it and that new FCVCU above. Altogether, it"s roughly the same kích thước as an Accord"s V6 powertrain, và although the small lithium-ion battery pack technically still resides under the front seats, the cabin is no longer compromised. The driving position is at a normal height, there"s a regular center console boasting Honda"s usual clever packaging, và importantly, there are five seats, rather than the four provided by the previous Clarity & the Toyota Mirai.
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Meanwhile, that giant hydrogen tank issue was dealt with in two ways. First, the Clarity utilizes H70, or the newer standard that compresses hydrogen to lớn 10,000 psi. The old Clarity used H35 hydrogen compressed to 5,000 psi. This means you can haul around more H 2 despite having a smaller tank. Or, in the case of the 2017 Clarity, two smaller tanks: one under the back seat và another in the forward portion of the trunk. Yes, it still robs cargo space, but the remaining 11.8 cubic feet is similar to what you"d get with a midsize hybrid sedan. Another key advancement is the new electrically driven turbo air compressor that feeds oxygen into the fuel cell. The old one was more akin to lớn a supercharger, resulting in a whining scream when accelerating hard. It"s something you can still experience in the Mirai. With the turbocharger, there"s the slightest hint of a fan-like whir when you gun it, but the overall noise when accelerating is practically indistinguishable from an EV. and on the road, that"s the general impression you get from the Clarity. Press the questionably named "Sport" button và you even get enhanced regenerative braking, though sadly not as much as in a Tesla or BMW i3. Yet, it also feels lượt thích a more premium vehicle than the typical EV or the current Accord – if not a 2022 vintage, then at least Honda"s attempt at a Toyota Avalon competitor. The cabin is very quiet and the ride is impressively buttoned down, feeling every bit lượt thích the long-wheelbase, hefty-curb-weight (4,134 pounds) oto that it is. The steering, true to Honda form, is consistently and appropriately weighted, feeling just as adept at cruising down the highway and puttering around town as it is navigating the mountain roads selected for the drive route around Santa Barbara, California.
The cabin also goes a long way in providing that premium feel. The Clarity has by far the highest-quality interior in the Honda fleet and its design is far more compelling than anything sold by Acura (yes, even the NSX). The open-pore wood trim used in tasteful abundance on the dash và floating center console looks excellent, as does the suedecloth trim in between. Even Honda"s standard touchscreen infotainment system manages to blend in with the quasi-futuristic motif, although it"s unfortunately not the new-and-improved version found in the 2017 Honda CR-V (read: no volume knob). The standard adaptive cruise control & forward collision warning system are also, frustratingly, not the CR-V"s upgraded units. They"re still dim-witted and prone to lớn crying wolf. One would imagine the real 2022 Accord will vì better. Of course, a more premium Honda midsize sedan with a hydrogen powertrain doesn"t come cheap. Available only fully loaded, its suggested retail price is $58,490, but since you can only lease it, the real number to consider is $369 per month with $2,868 due at signing. You"re also given 20,000 miles per year (with HOV lane privileges, owners typically go further than you"d expect), $15,000 worth of không tính phí hydrogen (the result of older stations" difficulty in identifying how much they"re dispensing), và a $5,000 tax rebate from the state of California (that"s right, you can"t get a Clarity anywhere else). to put that into the only perspective possible, a Toyota Mirai is $349 per month with $2,499 due at signing & a 12,000-mile limit. You get the same không tính phí hydrogen and tax rebate. After driving both cars back-to-back, the Clarity"s price premium seems to lớn be worth it. Not only is it more normal khổng lồ drive, it"s also bigger và can go further on a tank(s) of hydrogen (366 miles versus 312).
But then there"s the entire matter of hydrogen itself, and we"re not even talking about the restricted supply – there are actually plenty of stations now in Northern và Southern California. No, since we can"t just pop over to dòng xe jupiter and fill up a tanker, we have khổng lồ separate H 2 from another substance, say, natural gas or water. That takes a lot of energy. You"re effectively using electricity to split water into hydrogen và oxygen, then using that same hydrogen lớn create electricity and water again. Taking that original electricity và putting it into an EV"s battery pack sure seems more efficient. Honda would argue, however, that hydrogen provides an ownership experience more akin lớn what we"re used lớn with gasoline – specifically, three-to-five-minute fill-ups versus waiting at a Chili"s for a half hour as your Tesla supercharges – while being cleaner and less reliant on foreign sources than gasoline. Valid points to lớn be sure, but just to lớn hedge its bets, Honda will be releasing a Clarity EV & Clarity Plug-In Hybrid later in the year. Those will certainly find more homes than the Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle, và although they won"t have quite the same made-in-2022 driving experience, they"ll nevertheless retain the same premium feel, uncompromised cabin, & Accord-of-the-future looks (although the aerodynamic wheel slats bởi vì give the rear view an almost 1950s retro quality). In other words, you won"t need hydrogen khổng lồ sample the greatest hits of tomorrow.
Featured Gallery2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell: First Drive
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Image Credit: Honda
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