A car you can’t buy shows what the cars we’ll be buying in the future could be like
Honda is joining Toyota in offering a hydrogen fuel cell car for use in Europe. It’s not actually selling the Clarity Fuel Cell, but is testing the water by running small fleets in key countries including the UK. The idea it to build up interest and experience for when the next-generation model arrives in around five years’ time.
The fuel cell is technology Honda’s been working on for decades, and it believes it is one answer to the dilemma of what will power the cars of the future. It’s still not a mainstream proposition – the firm’s currently making just three Claritys a day, and if they were sold, each would cost more than £40,000 – but it’s the next step in the eventual introduction of this tech.
In terms of how it feels on the road, it’s already there. If you’ve driven an electric car, you’ll have a good idea of how quiet, sophisticated and easy the Clarity is. This is a plush, upmarket-feeling car, one you could already see as a next step for someone driving, say, a Nissan Leaf.
Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
Motor: Electric, hydrogen fuel cell
Torque: 221lb ft
Gearbox: Direct drive
Kerb weight: 1800kg
Top speed: 104mph
Range: 403miles (NEDC, claimed)
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
It’s a big car, 4.9 metres long, with a saloon body made from an exotic mix of aluminium, high-strength steel and composites. Honda’s breakthrough has been in achieving a conventional layout for the fuel cell engineering, which is now fully packaged beneath the bonnet, just like in a normal car. In the rear are two hydrogen tanks, giving enough gas for Honda to claim the longest driving range of any zero-emissions car.
It feels posh inside, with a plush feel to the dashboard and plentiful space for front-seat occupants. It’s OK in the rear too, but only for two people: Honda claims this is a five-seater but the third person would soon be grumbling. The boot is reasonable, although its overall shape is compromised by the intrusion of the fuel cell tanks.
It has an upmarket feel in action. It emits just a steady hum as it moves smartly from rest, with linear and completely smooth acceleration. Lift off and you’ll hear a distant whine as the regeneration system charges the battery; pressing the sport button strengthens this effect, although it otherwise doesn’t significantly sportify the rest of it.
For such a big car, handling is neat and the steering is positive. It’s neutral and has decent grip; it doesn’t object to being thrown about. The ride is decent, and everything about how it drives complements the Rolls-Royce-like silence of the hydrogen fuel cell system.
So although you can’t yet buy it, you may still want to – and if everything goes to plan, you’ll certainly want to consider the next generation model due in half a decade. If Honda can get the price right and continue evolving the talents of this already-impressive model, it’s a future car we’re already anticipating.