Honda’s fuel cell flagship reaches its second generation, but is the world ready?

Labelling its first hydrogen fuel cell car – the first such car made available to members of the public, no less – ‘Clarity’ in 2008 ranks among Honda’s bolder recent decisions.

Doubtless, it was plucked from the marketing ether to echo the remarkable truth of the clear, semi-clean water trickling from the model’s tailpipe; because the alternative intimation is surely a reference to the brand’s strategic foresight, and its steely eyed dedication to a zero-emissions path that leads inexorably to the moral and technological high ground.

Honda claims a world first in the application of a newly developed grade of high-tensile steel in the Clarity’s platform, as well as the use of glassfibre-reinforced plastic hybrid mouldings

There’s no small irony in option B. Despite others joining Honda on the fuel cell bandwagon, almost a decade of progress has not resulted in much more clarity than we encountered the first time around.

Hydrogen, as a viable alternative fuel, continues to promise much and deliver precious little.

As before, infrastructure – the method of conveniently refuelling a car that runs on the stuff – remains a thorny issue simultaneously pricked by a lack of willpower, interest and investment.

In London, one of the biggest, richest and most populous cities in the world, there is now a grand total of five places to pump compressed gaseous hydrogen into a fuel tank. That plainly isn’t enough.

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However, that is not Honda’s fault nor precisely its problem. After all, the second generation of the Clarity, much like the first, is not about to appear in a UK dealership with a price sticker in its window.

Instead, the car will be trialled in limited numbers as part of a continuing demonstration project as the manufacturer builds towards having electrified powertrains in two-thirds of all the cars it sells by 2025.

So why this road test?

Well, like the Toyota Mirai we tested, Honda’s latest water-emitter promises to edge the holy-grail fuel cell tech that bit closer to real-world viability, with what it claims is the longest driving range of any zero-emissions vehicle.

While that might sound like planning for a moon visit with a pogo stick jump, we indubitably need proof that the horse works before anyone commits to building the stables.

Consequently, the more persuasive the new Clarity manages to be, the clearer the future might conceivably get.

Honda Clarity FCV First drives