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The Ride: A spin the Honda's new fuel cell-powered sedan

The 2017 Honda Clarity is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and has a range of over 300 miles.
The 2017 Honda Clarity is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and has a range of over 300 miles.
American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

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An electric car that has a 300 mile range, and never needs to be charged?

Later this year, Honda will begin selling its new generation Clarity. It's a roomy, well-appointed four-door sedan with a difference. Its electric motor is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

Our motor critic and host of The Ride, Sue Carpenter, took a spin in a pre-production model, and found it to be appealing in both looks and performance. Honda says the Clarity will sell for less than $60,000 and lease for about $500 a month, which sets it up squarely against Toyota's fuel cell car, the Mirai. Both cars have an advantage over battery powered electrics. Rather than waiting for the batteries to charge, fuel cell vehicles are filled with hydrogen in an operation that's familiar and takes about the same amount of time as a gas fill-up does.

The problem is finding a filling station. Although California has aggressive plans to build hydrogen stations, there are currently only about 40 in the entire state, mostly clustered around LA and San Francisco. 

And, although fuel cells are zero emission - the only by-product is a few drops of water - some environmentalists are concerned because the majority of hydrogen fuel is made by burning fossil fuels. But, under California law, a third of that fuel must be created from renewable energy such as wind or solar, and the ratio of "green" hydrogen is expected to increase dramatically over the next few years.

Clearly, the Clarity and other fuel cell cars aren't for everyone. But they do provide an interesting alternative to someone considering a battery electric car, and a report out just this week indicates their popularity will ramp up pretty quickly. The firm Information Trends predicts within about 15 years, there will be 20 million fuel cell vehicles worldwide. That's impressive when you consider that the number of plug-in electric vehicles sold in the US since Telsa introduced its Roadster in 2008 totals just more than half a million.