The promise of hydrogen fuel cell cars has been a fantasy that’s been going in and out of popularity for decades. Now that fantasy can be a reality for drivers in California who now have another option in the slowly growing segment of fuel cell cars. The 2018 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell hits 12 California Honda dealerships starting today.
Honda won’t let you buy a Clarity Fuel Cell (I specify “Fuel Cell” because there’s also a Clarity electric vehicle and Clarity plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). If you want one, your only option, for now, is to lease one for $369 per month for 36 months with $2,868 due at signing. Honda is giving the Clarity Fuel Cell retail price tag of $58,490 with a $5,000 tax rebate kicking in to make for a fairly affordable lease.
Among the 12 California Honda dealerships getting the first round of 2018 Clarity Fuel Cells, six of them are in the Los Angeles area, five are in the San Francisco Bay area, and one is in the state’s capital of Sacramento. The main reason the car is starting out in California is that the state has some infrastructure that supports hydrogen fuel cell vehicles while most of the country really doesn’t, except for some on the East coast.
We reached out to Honda asking if there were any plans to expand availability of the Clarity Fuel Cell in the near future. "Today, Honda is deploying the Clarity Fuel Cell in California, as that is where the hydrogen infrastructure resides today," said a Honda representative in an email to The Drive. "However, as the infrastructure grows to other markets outside of California, starting with the Northeast next, Honda plans to deploy fuel cell vehicles there, too, once a healthy station network exists."
The Honda Clarity has 174 horsepower and gets an impressive range of 366 miles with a combined mpg-equivalent rating of 68. Honda says it only takes 3-5 minutes to refuel a Clarity Fuel Cell which presents a significant advantage over current EV technology. For times when you want to go on a trip outside of where the fueling stations are, your Clarity lease comes with use of a luxury vehicle for up to 21 days from Avis car rental which is a pretty nice perk if you’re concerned about range anxiety.
The Clarity goes head-to-head with the Toyota Mirai, the other big player in fuel cell vehicles right now. The popularity of leases on these cars could make or break the future of hydrogen fuel cell cars in the U.S.