In the race to deliver more eco-friendly vehicles, manufacturers have leaned towards hybrid vehicles that combine the efficiency of electricity with small and efficient gas engines, and let's not forget the rise of the electric vehicle. These two eco-friendly concepts dominate the market, but there is still a tiny segment that uses hydrogen fuel technology, including the 2020 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell. The idea makes sense: why not use the most abundant gas in the Earth's atmosphere to drive our cars? The Clarity Fuel Cell sedan is one of those cars and makes use of a 103 kW, 33-liter Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) to convert hydrogen into electricity and water. Power is sent to a single electric motor which develops 174 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. The Clarity goes up against the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo, but a slew of hybrid and electric cars can also be considered direct competition.
For the 2019 model year, the Clarity Fuel Cell sedan received no changes as part of Honda's cost-savings strategy for the low-volume nameplate. For the 2020 model year, however, Honda saw fit to better the nameplate by throwing in some minor upgrades. The vehicle now comes standard with heated side-view exterior mirrors finished in black and with an improved audible alert system for low-speed driving. Honda says it's also enhanced the Clarity Fuel Cell's cold-weather startup performance. The color scheme of the 4-door sedan has been revised as well, and models hued in the Platinum White Pearl exterior color will now come standard with a brown-hued interior. Finally, a new Crimson Pearl paint joins the exterior color palette, replacing the previous Bordeaux Red.
See trim levels and configurations:
Single Speed Automatic
You won't find a 5.0-liter V8 engine chugging gas under the hood of the 2020 Clarity Fuel Cell; instead, you get a piece of alien technology that excretes water and electricity. The second generation of the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell nameplate uses a 103-kW 33-liter Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell that converts hydrogen into these two resources. The electricity generated gets sent to a single AC electric motor producing 174 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque with a front-wheel drive system in place and a single-speed transmission. Initial acceleration is impressive but tapers off after 60 mph, meaning the Clarity is a car best used on city streets where it feels nippiest.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is visionary in terms of its powertrain and works exceptionally well in the real world but is let down by the simple fact that it is so specialized. Seeing as it's only available in California and on a lease-only basis already limits its success - although it does mean reliability isn't a worry for the leaser - and a small refueling network doesn't help either. We still love the concept and believe that hydrogen fuel cells could be a viable alternative to the wave of EVs coming out these days. As for the rest of the car, there are some shortcomings, such as an unintuitive infotainment system, a small trunk, and the fact that the powertrain runs out of breath when nearing 60 mph. The biggest threat facing the Honda Clarity is not other Hydrogen cell vehicles but the multitude of 'eco-friendly' alternatives saturating the market, and it's hard to review the 2020 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell without considering the abundance of fast-charging, long-range EVs already available.
There's only one trim on offer for 2020, but don't worry; the Clarity Fuel Cell is a full-house deal and comes with a bunch of standard tech that is usually reserved for the options list in most other cars. Standard features on the Clarity include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 12-speaker sound system, a head-up display, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Driver assistance tech is also included and consists of aids such as road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. We'd spec the optional rear parking sensors for added peace of mind, which, considering the car is lead and not purchased outright, doesn't affect the price of the 2020 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell sedan too much on a monthly basis.
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