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EXCLUSIVE: First Drive of the All-Electric 2018 Honda Clarity

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【Summary】Honda Motor Co. gave Silicon Valley area drivers a sneak preview and road test of Honda’s new, all-electric Clarity this week. The car is expected to hit dealer showrooms this August.

Original Eric Walz    Jul 28, 2017 3:51 PM PT
EXCLUSIVE: First Drive of the All-Electric 2018 Honda Clarity
author: Eric Walz   

San Jose, CA — Honda Motor Co. offered some lucky Silicon Valley drivers a sneak preview and the oppourtunity to road test the company's new, all-electric Clarity this week. The car is expected to hit dealer showrooms this August. Futurecar reporters attended the event and got the chance to check out and road test Honda's newest vehicle in a special event held in San Jose, one of several selected San Francisco Bay Area locations.

Besides the all-electric version (which we tested), the Clarity is the first Honda powered by hydrogen fuel-cell technology. There is also a plug-in hybrid version that will be available later this year.

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The 2018 Honda Clarity in Vortex Blue

The hydrogen fuel cell converts hydrogen to electricity to charge the batteries which then powers the car's electric motor. The hydrogen fuel cell version of the Clarity offers an EPA 366 miles of range per tank of hydrogen. However, the Clarity's electric version is somewhat limited in comparison.

The all-electric Clarity has a surprisingly short driving range and a small battery pack. Honda's decision was to offer this version only in California and Oregon, where automakers need to satisfy zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) credit requirements. The electric Clarity's EPA-rated range is just 89 miles from a 25.5 kWh battery. DC fast charging will be standard on the Clarity, which makes it easy to reach an 80 percent charge within 30 minutes.

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The electric motor under the hood

At first look, the Clarity reminicent of a Toyota Prius, except it is slightly bigger. Honda representatives said the Clarity is closer in size to a Honda Accord than a Civic. The car sits on 17 inch, low rolling resistance Michelin tires. There Clarity also offers a sportier, 18-inch wheel option. The Clarity's interior is designed to fit five passengers.

Each Clarity model car comes almost fully loaded, except for some minor cosmetic options. Most buyers will just needs to pick out the color from the available eight color choices, including Vortex Blue, White Orchid, and Lunar Silver.

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The interior of the Honda Clarity

The minimalist interior has everything laid out within easy reach of the driver. All of the car's settings can be accessed with the large, center mounted display. The Clarity offers support for both Android Auto and Apple's Carplay. The Clarity is equipped with premium leather seats and thoughtful touches, including adjustable cupholders.

The front seats are positioned higher, to give a driver a good view of the road. Overall, visibility is good throughout the vehicle, and the large side-view mirrors help with this.

One unique feature is a small rear glass window mounted just about the center of the rear seats. This secondary window gives the driver a better view out of the back where the rear seats normally would block out the view. However, this convenience feature may only work when the rear seats are not occupied, as this window will not help if there are rear passengers blocking it.

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Small window above the rear seat for enhanced visibility out the back of the Clarity

Power from the electric motor is impressive for a mid-size car. The electric motor provides 221 lb-ft of torque. The Honda offers three driving modes, normal, economy and sport. In sport mode, acceleration is much quicker, however the tradeoff is shorter range before battery charges.

All three Clarity models are calibrated about the same for regenerative braking. Brake blending as you approach a stoplight is superbly smooth, but at higher speeds we expected more regenerative action when we lifted off the accelerator. The Clarity electric lets you ramp up the regenerative braking with a tug of a steering-wheel paddle, but it still doesn't offer enough for mountain roads or the so-called one-pedal driving that many EV fans prefer.

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The Clarity's center display to access the car's accessories and settings

Honda says that the plug-in hybrid, not yet priced, will be available nationwide. For the Clarity electric, which becomes available in August, Honda has announced a $269-per-month lease price for a 36-month term, with $1730 down. That includes the $7500 federal EV tax credit, claimed by Honda Financial Services, but California customers qualify for an additional $2500 Clean Vehicle Rebate.

The Clarity fuel cell option is only available in California and Oregon, and as part of a $369-per-month lease deal it includes several unique benefits, including up to $15,000 of hydrogen fuel for the 3 year lease term, and up to 21 days of complimentary Avis luxury car rentals for those longer trips. To learn more about the benefits of leasing the Clarity Fuel Cell, click here.

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