What is it?
This is the new Honda FCV Clarity, the latest attempt by the Japanese manufacturer to gain the high ground on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles - and one that’s under more pressure than ever before, thanks to the recent arrival of the Toyota Mirai.
Indeed, whereas Honda’s previous fuel cell vehicles have been praised for their technical innovation, they’ve also been available to only a select few. The firm made just 72 examples of the last effort, the FCX Clarity - but it has much higher hopes for the FCV Clarity, which will be made in “much greater numbers” and is seen as a stepping stone to Honda’s first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle, currently in development (some of it shared with General Motors) and due in 2020.
As with the Clarity, the FCV Clarity sits on a bespoke platform, but it gets two hydrogen tanks instead of one, with both storing the fuel at a higher pressure (700bar instead of 350). This is designed, Honda engineers say, to answer the single biggest concern that’s come across in feedback from Clarity owners: range. That car managed 240 miles in the US test cycle; Honda says the FCV Clarity can crack 300 on the same standard, and it should be north of 400 in many real-world situations.
At the heart of it all is a new fuel cell stack, a third smaller than before and, astonishingly, 90% cheaper to produce. The more compact package has allowed Honda to move it away from the transmission tunnel area, to under the bonnet. That frees up cabin space, allowing the FCV Clarity to be a five-seater.