Sometimes I wonder if I am the luckiest man in the world. Not only do I live in a world full of second chances and love, but I also have a job where I sometimes get to drive really, really cool cars. Cars like the Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen powered sedan. This car is so good it actually gave me (a person who generally is a “green” naysayer) a lot of hope that there will still be fun to drive cars after the death of the internal combustion engine.
If you haven’t heard of it or seen one that is understandable since – even though it is built on a regular Honda production line – there are only about 22 currently in use, mainly in Southern California. So, to get you primed for my upcoming full length road test review here are five quick things I learned during my time behind the wheel of the Honda FCX Clarity.
The Hydrogen Used in the FCX Clarity is Only as Volatile as Gasoline
While many associate the word “hydrogen” with “bomb,” the stuff used to power the FCX Clarity is no more volatile than fossil fuels like gasoline. And since the hydrogen is a true “gas” it would all quickly dissipate into the atmosphere if the tank somehow ruptured in an accident. But it would have to be quite a bad accident for this tank to rupture as the fuel cell/battery/gas storage runs down the center console of the vehicle ending at the front of the very roomy trunk (more about that later).
It Emits Only Water Vapor
Yep, this is a ZEV-Zero Emissions Vehicle. When you are put-putting around town a few drops of water come out of the tailpipe. At full bore acceleration it comes out like a light mist. Imagine, Los Angeles without any smog. It is possible and this is the car that could make it happen.
When You Accelerate It Sounds Exactly Like a Shuttle Craft from “Star Trek”
I always listen to the radio when I am driving but I loved listening to the otherworldly hum that the FCX Clarity makes as you floor the accelerator. I finally figured out that it makes the exact same noise as the shuttle craft in the “Star Trek” movies. Okay, I totally outed myself as a fan of “Star Trek.” But it just makes you wonder if the engineers at Honda really did it intentionally. Or perhaps I am just starting another totally inaccurate conspiracy theory.
But if you tire of listening to the hum of the electric motor (that is driven by a battery that is powered by the hydrogen) you can always turn up the stereo. Because although it is a unique noise, the “engine note” of the FCX Clarity is very easy to drown out as it is so hushed.
It’s a Stylish, Roomy and Practical Four Door Sedan with a 235 mile Cruising Range
Even with its high-tech platform, lithium ion batteries and the fuel cell Honda still managed to squeeze in room for a nicely sized 13.1 cubic foot trunk. It’s perfect for two sets of golf clubs and can hold 10 fabric grocery bags along the flattest portion of the load floor (I took the car to buy groceries).
The greenhouse is nice and airy, everyone has plenty of legroom and the overall feel of the car just screams “road trip.” It just makes you wish there were more hydrogen refueling stations, say, on the way from LA to Las Vegas and LA to Palm Springs. In town and on the highway the FCX Clarity just drives like any other car. Except it does sort of make all other cars on the road seem so last century and just a little bit passé.
This Car Simply Needs a Larger Refueling Infrastructure
The FCX Clarity can be leased for approximately $600 a month (currently maintenance and hydrogen is free) but Honda is not making any money on the vehicles. Each unit would have to sell for millions of dollars to re-coup their development costs but if a larger refueling infrastructure was in place the laws of mass production would bring the cost of these vehicles down dramatically.
The hydrogen refueling station I visited once during my time with the FCX Clarity was completely solar powered and “off-the-grid” as they say. So, if you think that electric Nissan Leaf is really “green” you are kidding yourself because where do you think electricity comes from? Electricity plants that burn coal and from various nuclear power plants (and more will need to be built if we all drive electric cars).
Hydrogen, to my way of thinking, just makes sense as the next logical step in Humanity’s constant quest to solve their transportation and environmental issues. And if the U.S. Government can spend all that money bailing out finance companies with the morals of Darth Vader and the business sense of M.C. Hammer, then surely they could print up some more money for a hydrogen infrastructure. It’s just a thought.