The Honda Clarity EV doesn't make any sense

A lousy value proposition, especially compared with its own twin.

  • Image Credit: Drew Phillips
At this year's New York Auto Show, Honda launched the Clarity Fuel Cell's counterparts, the Clarity Electric and Clarity Plug-In Hybrid. It makes sense that Honda would expand its alternative-fuel model to encompass electricity, since hydrogen isn't a sure thing. What doesn't make sense is why Honda would enter the EV game with such an uncompetitive vehicle.

When compared with current electric cars in the marketplace, the Clarity Electric comes up short in both range and price. The Honda will go only 80 miles on a charge, and the company will charge you a price in the mid-$30,000s for the privilege. Both the Nissan Leaf and Kia Soul EV outperform the Clarity Electric with ranges of 107 and 93 miles respectively, and price tags in the low-$30,000 realm. But the bigger issue is the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which offers a whopping 238 miles for just over $37,000. (Note: All given prices are before incentives). The Clarity is a pitiful value proposition from a range standpoint.

Now, two things Honda touts as Clarity advantages are the size of the car and its supposedly luxurious interior. And we would agree there are probably car shoppers who won't consider a compact car, regardless of how well it performs or how spacious it is. For the person who wants a larger car, perhaps to communicate wealth and success, the Clarity offers that. And our experience with the much more expensive Clarity Fuel Cell tells us that the interior is genuinely high-quality.

  • Image Credit: Drew Phillips

However, the advantage of size and premium feel is eliminated by the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid. The PHEV Clarity will be priced very similarly to the full-electric model, and while the Plug-In will only have 50 percent of the Electric's electric-only range, its gasoline-powered range extender will help it go as far as 330 miles. And then it can go another couple-hundred miles with a full tank of gas. Why would you spend the same money for just 80 miles of range and at least 30-minute charge times to keep going?

The Clarity Electric comes across as a truly half-hearted attempt at making a full EV. Even the Electric's availability seems reluctant, as it will only be sold in California and Oregon to begin. Perhaps Honda itself realizes that the Clarity Electric isn't good enough to take on the EV establishment. And if that's the case, we have to ask, why did Honda even bother with the car in the first place? Let's hope subsequent Clarity Electrics will be more compelling.

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