It’s called the Clarity and it can travel a claimed 100km further on a full charge than its nearest clean-burning rivals, the battery-powered Tesla Model S P100D and the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai.
Neither Tesla CEO Elon Musk nor Toyota have responded to the range-leading claims, or Clarity’s petrol-equivalent fuel use of around 3 litres/100km.
Clarity is the first zero-emissions car to have its entire fuel-cell drivetrain under the bonnet. Honda and its development partners reduced the size of the stack and boosted its power density. It also stored fuel more efficiently. As a result, the improved packaging boosted interior space.
Honda said in a statement: “Not only does the Clarity fuel cell fit five passengers and refuel in three to five minutes, it offers customers a driving range on a par with petrol-powered cars. The zero-emissions family road trip is no longer science fiction”.
That means you could drive from Auckland to Wellington with a brief stop somewhere along the way to top up the zero-emissions fuel tank, that’s if somewhere along the way had a hydrogen refueling station.
For now, the Clarity fuel cell variant is available only in Japan and on a US$500 (NZ$700) monthly lease in California. And only those who live or work within 16km of the state’s 12 hydrogen fueling stations will get the keys. There are six in Southern California, five in the San Francisco Bay area and one in Sacramento.
Clarity replaces the first Clarity, the FCX, and is the first of three versions of the sedan that Honda is scheduled to launch over the next year of so. An all-electric variant is due, as is a plug-in hybrid.
The latest Clarity stores fuel at 10,000 psi (690 bar), twice the pressure used in the FCX, which had a range of 380km.The latest offering reduced the fuel cell stack by 33 per cent, shrinking the system down to the size of a V6 engine while boosting power density of 60 per cent.
Honda developed the powertrain with American company W.L. Gore & Associates, best known for its breathable Goretex fabrics. Gore’s next-generation fuel cell membranes facilitate the chemical reaction between the Clarity’s hydrogen fuel and oxygen.
The unique design of the Gore membranes contributes to the fuel cell stack’s increased power density while meeting Honda’s strict requirements for durability and quality. Since Gore entered the fuel cell industry in the early 1980s, its fuel cell components have been used in thousands of applications worldwide.