Expert Insights

Honda Clarity: The Ultimate Zero Emission Vehicle

Dave Nichols
Jul 2023
You might call the Honda Clarity the ultimate ZEV since at one time or another in its history, the Clarity has been all three of these technological wonders: an all-electric car, a plug-in hybrid, and a hydrogen fuel-cell electric car.
honda clarity

Honda's Ultimate Zero Emission Vehicle

Of all the electric vehicles currently on the market, only one has the distinction of having been an all-electric car, a plug-in hybrid and a hydrogen fuel-cell electric car. That vehicle is the Honda Clarity. You might call it the ultimate ZEV since at one time or another in its history, the Clarity has been all three of these technological wonders.

Clarity History

Honda’s 2006 FCX hydrogen-powered concept car became the FCX Clarity in its production form in 2008 when it was introduced in Japan. Shortly thereafter, the zero emission vehicle was offered for lease in Europe and southern California. Unlike battery electric vehicles, the FCX Clarity did not need to be plugged in to recharge electric batteries and its fuel-cell could be refueled with hydrogen in five minutes. It was the first FCEV to be offered to the public.

Like most electric vehicles, the car had regenerative braking and a separate battery to store recovered energy. Its 134 horsepower electric motor offered 189 pound feet of torque and a range of 240 miles. With its focus on being a truly Green Car, even the upholstery was made from plant-based Bio-Fabric. Because of the lack of hydrogen refueling stations, the FCX was only available in very limited numbers. From 2008 until 2015, when Honda decided to phase out the FCX Clarity, there were only 48 of the cars leased in California. Honda announced that it had plans to replace the FCX Clarity with a higher-volume hydrogen fuel-cell car.



The new Clarity that Honda promised is called the Clarity Fuel Cell. It debuted in 2016 and is available in America from 12 approved Honda dealerships in Southern California, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Its range has improved to 366 miles and the ZEV boasts an EPA rating of 67 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe).


But that’s not all Honda had up its sleeves. In April of 2016 the automaker also unveiled its Clarity Electric and Clarity Plug-in Hybrid variants. The Clarity Electric was available in California and Oregon and was capable of Level 1 and Level 2 charging as well as DC Fast Charging. Honda stopped production of the all-electric vehicle at the end of 2019 but continues to sell its Plug-In Hybrid to all 50 states.

The 2021 PHEV version of the Clarity is available with an MSRP of $33,400 and is eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit on EVs as well as other state and local incentives. The Clarity PHEV has an all-electric range of 47 miles and a total gas/electric range of 340 miles. Level 1 charging of the battery pack takes 13 hours while Level 2 charging is accomplished in 2.5 hours. The EPA rates the Plug-in at 42 mpg combined.

The 2021 Clarity Fuel Cell may be leased in California and Honda includes a credit for up to $15,000 worth of hydrogen. The fuel cell will take you 360 miles before the Clarity starts gasping for more H2. MSRP starts at $58,490.

Both versions of the Clarity include an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen that gives you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. The Honda Sensing suite of driver assist features includes automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist as well as standard adaptive cruise control.

Zero-Emission Electric Vehicles

When talking about the spectrum of mass produced zero emission electric vehicles (ZEV) that populate the alternative fuel landscape today, there are plug-in hybrids (PHEV), battery electric vehicles (BEV), and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEV). Standard Hybrids are cars that use both gasoline engines and electric motors for locomotion. As such, they are not really zero emission vehicles since they still create carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to harmful greenhouse gases.

Plug-in hybrids, on the other hand, can drive a certain number of miles (between 28 and 60 miles depending on the car) on electric-only power before switching to gasoline. Battery electric cars don’t use gas at all and generally have a range of 200 to 300 miles between recharging, while hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles use compressed hydrogen that is turned into electricity to power their electric motors.