It’s not pretty, but the Honda Clarity is a vision of the future. Its space-capsule shape serves as proof of a collective subconscious among forward-thinking car designers stretching as far back as Hudson. Like the Hudson Hornet, there’s even twin-H power under the hood, but in the case of the Clarity the twin H refers to hydrogen molecules.
Filling the Clarity with hydrogen isn’t any more difficult than pumping gasoline into an Accord, although finding a hydrogen station may prove impossible outside of the Los Angeles basin or the San Francisco Bay Area. Like a conventional Japanese car, the Clarity’s fuel filler is under a flap on the left-rear fender. Lock the nozzle over the car’s filler neck, and after a few seconds the station’s pump begins to whirr and grumble as it fills the two aluminum-lined, composite-reinforced tanks. A larger one (31 gallons) hide behind the rear seatbacks, and a smaller one (six gallons) is mounted under the rear seat cushion. At 10,000 psi, the tanks hold 5.5 kilograms of hydrogen (roughly equal in energy to 5.5 gallons of gasoline). In our experience, that provided a range of about 300 miles. In EPA testing the Clarity did better, posting a 366-mile range. Similarly, the EPA quotes a 68 MPGe combined number. We didn’t match the EPA figure we almost never do recording 57 MPGe.
After five minutes or less at the station, you’re back on the road. Pumping hydrogen is really the only odd part of the Clarity experience. A 1.7-kWh battery pack mounted below the front seats acts as a buffer for the fuel cell and provides added juice when accelerating hard.
The Clarity is also a lot nicer inside than the Mirai. It seats five comfortably to the Mirai’s four. Most controls and the touch screen will be familiar to Honda owners, but the décor is attractive and rich enough to pull Acura duty which isn’t much of a stretch considering the Clarity costs $59,365 before government incentives. And the refinement goes beyond the interior. A solid structure and supple suspension give the Clarity a luxury-car feel that the Mirai can’t touch. Driving the Clarity after the Mirai is like getting into a Lexus ES350 after a Toyota Corolla.