REVIEW: Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid, “A plug-in without the compromise”

REVIEW: Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid, “A plug-in without the compromise”
The Clarity PHEV is a fantastic choice for anyone who wants an electric vehicle, but who also needs the flexibility of being able to take long trips when needed.

By Louisiana Clean Fuels – July 9, 2018

A plug-in vehicle without compromise?

I bought my 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid in February 2018 (just over five months ago as I write this), and I have already racked up over 10k miles on my odometer. I drive a lot. To jump right in, why did I buy a new car in the first place – and why a Honda Clarity PHEV?

Towards the end of my previous car’s time with me, it leaked ~0.5 L of oil per week. So, clearly, it was pretty much kaput. Thus began my shockingly short search for a new vehicle. I knew that I wanted something that would be fuel efficient and reliable, preferably with some electric range. My dream car is a Tesla Model 3, but given how unreliable my current car had become, I wasn’t exactly able to wait on the long list of people in line for one.

Despite working in the alt-fuels world, I hadn’t heard of the Honda Clarity until one Fateful Friday (like a Manic Monday, but less catchy). I was planning on making my new car decision within the week that followed my discovery of the Clarity and luckily, a local dealership had a Clarity in stock – they jumped at the chance to let me test drive the car

.

First Experience:

Outside:

From the moment I saw the car, I was intrigued. I’m used to the overtly futuristic look of other mainstream hybrids (I’m looking at you, Prius), and though Honda has definitely made some aesthetically divisive design decisions, the Clarity has a significantly lower shock-factor than the Prius. The most notable design choice is the shrouded rear tires, which help the Clarity slip through the air more effortlessly. Largely, the exterior of the Clarity fits in quite nicely with the design of newer Honda Accords and Civics.

As an interesting note, a couple of reviews I’ve come across online have referred to the Clarity as the ugliest car of the year, which I rather enjoy. This is in pretty stark contrast to all the times I’ve been stopped at my local car chargers by strangers who wanted to know more about EVs and my car in particular, all of them raving about how nice of a car it is. So, “divisive” is probably an appropriate way to describe the design of the Clarity.

Inside:

Sitting in the car, it feels wonderfully familiar to the “conventional” vehicles I’ve driven all my life (except this time, the car isn’t as old as I am . . . ). The two notable differences inside the vehicle are the paddle selectors on the steering column (used to control the strength of its regenerative braking) and the gear selector – which is a row of push (and pull) buttons in lieu of a lever.

The interior of the car is comfortable and shockingly roomy. The gear selector is suspended on a bridge, which allows for a shelf underneath that houses two USB charging ports (one provides 1.5A and the other provides 1.0A) as well as the standard power socket that most cars have (there is a second power socket behind the center console for rear passengers). This shelf has become a fantastic place for my wallet, phone, and notebook during my daily commute.

The car comes in two trims: Base and Touring. The Touring trim only adds a few features, such as Honda Satellite Navigation (though Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available in the Base trim as well), full-leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel,  and power seats (with settings memorized based on key fob). Critically, there are no performance differences between the trims – the electric range, fuel economy, safety features, and engine/motor power of the two trims are identical.

First Drive:

I’ll admit that I was slightly perturbed by the process of turning the car on. Hitting the Start button results in the dash and touchscreen lighting up as well as a quiet boot-up sound, which I suspect was added to satisfy the part of my brain that expects to hear the engine turning over. While I have since come to appreciate this sound, all I could hear was a deafening silence when I turned the car on for the first time. Like a 90’s sitcom, I looked over to the salesman in the passenger seat with (what I assume was) a look of naïve stupor on my face and asked him if the car had turned on or not . . . it had, of course.

Having never driven a hybrid or electric vehicle before, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be lethargic like I’d expect from stories I’ve heard about hybrids, or would it be zippy like I’d expect from stories I’ve heard about EVs?

To my delight, the car proved to be pretty zippy! While the Clarity won’t push you back in your seat like a Tesla S will, it provides more than ample acceleration if you need it. Its Sport Mode significantly increases the responsiveness of the accelerator and, quite frankly, makes the Clarity an exciting vehicle to drive.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the paddle selectors for the regenerative braking. I found that the process of using them became second-nature very quickly and by the end of my short test drive I was using them without much active thought, which I consider to be a big win.

One of the qualities I care most about in a vehicle is visibility while driving, and this is a place where the Clarity excels (maybe that’s where the name comes from . . . ). While the rear window isn’t very big, the Clarity has a window through the trunk that adds a very valuable visibility patch.

The last major thing I noticed during my first test drive is the steering wheel itself. It may sound silly, but the steering wheel just feels solid. It has very little play in it and I find that it provides a really comforting feeling of confidence while driving that is hard to explain. It adds a sense of intentionality to any input when driving that I adore.

Performance Stats:

  • Engine: 1.5L In-Line Four-Cylinder
  • Valve-Train: 16 Valve DOHC VTEC
  • Horsepower: 212 HP combined between Electric Motor and Engine
  • Transmission: Continuously-Variable
  • Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined): 44/40/42
  • Electric Range: 47 miles
  • Electric MPGe: 110
  • Battery Size: 17kWh
  • Fuel Tank Size: 7 gallons
  • Charging Capability: Level 1 and Level 2 (32A; 6.6kW)

Price and Tax Credits:

  • Base Trim (starting at): $33,400
  • Touring Trim (starting at): $36,600
  • Federal Tax Credit*: $7,500
  • State Tax Credit: varies by state**
*At the time of writing, the Federal Electric Vehicle Tax Credit is $7,500 for the Honda Clarity PHEV. This amount is dependent upon battery size. The tax credit is non-refundable and doesn’t roll over to subsequent years. For more up-to-date and complete info, see: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml
**For more information about state-specific tax credits, see: https://www.energy.gov/eere/electricvehicles/electric-vehicles-tax-credits-and-other-incentives
2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Real World Experience:

How do these stats stack up with reality?

Short answer: shockingly well, actually! In the 10k miles I’ve put on my car, I’ve averaged ~55 miles on every full charge of my car and nearly 50 mpg when driving in hybrid mode (something like 18% better than the stated values). It’s worth noting that most of my hybrid-mode driving is highway driving with only a little smattering of city driving – I manage to drive in electric mode upwards of 90% of the time. Of course, these differences are certainly, in part, due to my tendency to be a mild-mannered driver (apart from the occasional passive-aggressive mutterings under my breath about the inability of Baton Rouge citizens to merge properly).

As far as horsepower is concerned, I admit to lacking the ability to intuit horsepower by feel, but the car certainly seems to have the get-up-and-go that I ask of it when merging. Despite weighing in at just over 4000 lbs, the Clarity still manages to deliver a 0-60 time of around 7.5s, which is pretty solid for a hybrid with such a beefy battery.

As anyone who has driven an electric car will tell you: they’re exciting. Regardless of the 0-60 time, the instant torque and responsiveness of any electric vehicle is simply delightful. In the Clarity, this fact is compounded with a decent 0-60 coupled with a very sensitive accelerator when the car is in Sport Mode that makes driving almost dangerously fun. If the accelerator is pushed far enough, the car seamlessly kicks the gasoline engine on to provide the requested power, which is really easy to do in Sport Mode – a fact that leads me to keep the car in Eco Mode. The Clarity’s no McLaren (I had a little chuckle to myself when I parked next to a McLaren yesterday and noted the fact that the two cars could not be more different from each other), but it still manages to elicit joy in my daily commute.

Interesting Notes:

  • Remote Climate Control is a wonderful feature to have here in the oven that is Louisiana.
  • Keyless Entry is lovely.
  • The engine bay is significantly more roomy and accessible than most other hybrids I’ve seen, which is a huge boon for someone who likes to do his own car work and maintenance.
  • As many other reviewers/owners have mentioned, this car practically begs to be driven as an EV (it even has the tailpipe tucked away out of sight), despite managing to be rather adept at eking out a high degree of efficiency from burning gasoline.
  • The Clarity is so quiet that I hear other vehicles creeping up on me when driving, which quite literally adds a new dimension to my road awareness.
  • It’s nearly impossible to hear or notice the gasoline engine kicking on, except for when driving at low speeds.
  • The Clarity also makes an artificial exterior noise to alert pedestrians of its presence when driving at low speeds.
  • While it’s not a Clarity exclusive, the reverse camera is such a wonderful feature that I feel obligated to mention it. I’m almost surprised that reverse cameras haven’t become required by law at this point.
  • The auto-dimming rear view mirror is wonderful.
  • While some people prefer blind-spot monitoring, I think the addition of “Lane-Watch” (a camera on the passenger-side mirror that provides a wide-angle view of the passenger-side blind spot) is a fantastic feature.
  • The car has a brake-hold system that can be toggled to keep the car stopped without your foot on the brakes – even on a hill.
  • The Clarity has an Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) that will maintain a set distance from the car in front while cruising (traditional Cruise Control can be toggled easily, if desired). I was really shocked at how well it maintains distance, and the ACC will keep distance at speeds below 25 mph, as well (this feature is referred to as Low-Speed Follow).
  • The car has a Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) as well that attempts to keep the car centered in its lane. While LKAS works reasonably well in highway conditions, it tends to get confused by merge lanes and off/on ramps. Generally, it’s a nice system, but it’s important to learn when it doesn’t work properly.
  • The Clarity had some software problems upon release with estimating hybrid-mode range. It would drastically over-estimate hybrid range if a significant amount of electric driving was done (it essentially averaged the fuel economy between gas fill-ups, but included electric driving in the calculation). This was recently fixed in a software update, and now the range estimates are wonderfully accurate.
  • The Clarity doesn’t provide Wh/mi data like some other EVs, which is pretty disappointing. It also doesn’t tell you the state-of-charge of the battery in kWh, another small disappointment. As someone who tracks fuel economy religiously, I find this to be a constant, mild annoyance.

Conclusion:

All in all, I think the Clarity PHEV is a fantastic choice for anyone who wants an electric vehicle, but who also needs the flexibility of being able to take long trips when needed. The 47-mile electric range (which, in the realm of PHEVs, is second only to the 2018 Volt’s 53-mile range) is enough to cover most, if not all of the average daily commute. This, coupled with its higher-than-average fuel economy (42 mpg combined) makes it a compelling choice for anyone with efficiency in mind – and it does all this while still being an incredibly roomy and comfortable vehicle to be in for long-distance travel! At the end of the day, I love my Clarity PHEV and feel that it truly is a plug-in vehicle without the compromise.

 

Utah Clean Cities’ 25th Anniversary

THANK YOU to everyone that made this evening unforgettable. This anniversary was an opportunity for recollections and reflections of the years gone by and a positive opportunity to plan for the years ahead.

Night to Celebrate the Future of Transportation- Utah Clean Cities’ 25th Anniversary Celebration

As we celebrated our 25 Year Anniversary, we celebrated the sustainers and leadership of the Department of Energy Clean Cities Programs, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County Environmental Health Department, Division of Air Quality, and the Governor’s Office of Energy Development.  We recognized the dedicated leaders who are building electrified fleets like Packsize, Salt Lake City Fleet, Park City,  and Zions National Park and the electrification work of SELECT with Dr. David Christensen and Dr. Regan Zane.

As our grid system becomes more diversified and cleaner with renewables, we thank you Rocky Mountain Power Blue Sky Customers, so do the electric vehicles customers that run on electricity.  Three big cheers for Rocky Mountain Power and their commitment to Utah with the STEP program and the DOE WestSmart EV– the Live and Work Electric program.  Their work has helped complete our EV Highway across Utah and with neighboring sister states.  Thank you Rocky Mountain Power for you partnership with Park City and supporting their tremendous accomplishment with their electric Proterra bus system; thus helping them achieve the Greenest City in Utah Award in 2018.

 

And to the resourceful people like Lancer Group, Utah Transit Authority, United Parcel Services, Rio Tinto, Utah State University, Geneva Rock and the many Utah refuse haulers like ACE Recycling, Waste Management, Robinson Waste, Momentum Recycling, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County who are building advanced fleet working with clean burning CNG and advancing their fleets with new technologies such as near-zero emission engines.  We thank Dominion Energy for their renewed dedication to the Utah Clean Cities mission of clean fuels with their current leadership to expand fueling for the Green Fleets in Utah. By using advanced fuels, we create greener fleets and is a part of clean air advocacy.

  • And further our Green Fleets are working with emerging renewable fuels, such as renewable natural gas, RNG, and combining them with near zero engines. With these renewables (which all fuels can be renewable) they are taking carbon out of the environment, thus lessening greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants.

 

We celebrate our nationally recognized Idle Free program that had hit new highs in 2018 with 8 cities with Idle Free ordinances and 71 Utah Mayors signing with the Governor’s Declaration for Idle Free- those mayors represent more than ¾ of Utahns and all of SLC County with 17 or the states largest cities. Thank you Park City, Salt Lake City, Logan, Murray, Holladay, Cottonwood Heights and Sandy City for your leadership.  Thank you to the Governor’s office for supporting this program for 11 years making Turn the Key, Be Idle Free Utah’s most beloved clean air advocacy program and state-wide environmental movement.

Thank you Breathe Utah, UCAIR, Utah State Board of Education and Utah Society for Environmental Education, USEE for your dedication to Turn the Key, Be Idle Free. We have Idle Free school bus policies and over 400 Idle Free schools and four entire school districts, thank you.  Thank you to all the Utah businesses that have embraced the Idle Free driver coaching and policies that have seen millions of gallons of fuel wasted.  Three cheers to Rio Tinto for their commitment, and unprecedented fuel savings and emission reductions with their fleet program; which included driver training, idle reduction and a large portfolio of advanced fuel vehicles such as clean burning natural gas, biofuels, and now they are leading the industry with new technologies and electrification.  Thank you to the Department of Administrative Services, DAS, and the Governor’s Motor Vehicle Review Board for supporting smart mobility and driver coaching resulting in right-sized fleets and reduced idling. Finally, thank you to the Bipartisan Clean Air Caucus, Representative Lowry Snow and Representative Patrice Arent. Your legislative work has paved the way to further clean Utah’s air.

We have so many reasons to celebrate, here are a few.

Utah Clean Cities’ 25th Silver Anniversary

Stakeholders, individuals, community members and businesses are Clean Cities champions in the past 25 years with Utah Clean Cities. We held a silent award ceremony for these businesses and individuals with certificates and trophies at their tables. Please view the photos from the event throughout and at the end of this post.

We’d like to thank our sponsors who helped make this Silver Anniversary Celebration so memorable.  Thank you.

71 Mayors that signed the 11th Annual Governors’ Idle Free Declaration

In September, we held the Governors’ Declaration of Idle Free Month of September and Winter 2018-2019 Season.  More information, Idle Free materials and the Declaration can be found here. Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free. Protect Blue Skies, Breathe Easier. Utah Clean Cities and its stakeholders have distributed over 20,000 Idle Free decals and more than 300 permanent outdoor Idle Free signs. UCC continues working with communities to encourage drivers to turn off their vehicles when idling for more than 10 seconds. In recent years, the Idle Free campaign has been incorporated and adapted by other organizations—including cities, schools, businesses and air quality organizations. UCC has also enjoyed working with groups outside the state, including other coalitions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Argonne National Laboratory.

 

10th Annual Anniversary Governors’ Declaration for Advanced and Alternative Fuels

Utah Clean Cities and the Governor’s Office of Energy Development celebrate together the 10 Year Anniversary and Annual Declaration of their Partnership for Advanced Fuels and Infrastructure in Utah.  We are especially thankful and grateful for the leadership of Dr. Laura Nelson and her dedication to the Utah Clean Cities mission of Clean Fuels, Clean Strategies and Clean Air.  

  • Utah has a complete alternative fuel corridor across the state beginning in Idaho running along I-15 and meeting up with sister state Nevada.
  • Utah has the largest per capita natural gas infrastructure in the nation running a close second to the larger state of Oklahoma
  • This corridor has over 231 Public alternative fueling stations; including electric, CNG, LNG, and Autogas Propane. Watch for emerging hydrogen and super-fast charging!
  • Utah completed its Mighty Five and Electric Highway this summer continuing its goal to connect Disneyland to Yellowstone Park thus making it one of the most complete electric highways in the nation!
  • Utah’s Governor Herbert and Colorado Governor Hickenlooper created the REVWest Memorandum of Understanding in 2017 bring eight (8) Regional States together to create one of the largest electric corridors in the nation
  • Utah Clean Cities is a partner with the Live & Work Electric Grant which is supporting the expansion of electric charging one Utah Business at a time with the Live and Work Electric Program

         

View the Governor’s Office of Energy Development Video for the 10 Year Alternative Fuel Declaration here:

The Future of Transportation- Electric, Autonomous, Shared & Continuous

Dr. Regan Zane, a SELECT Founder and Professor in Electrical Engineering, talked with the attendees about the future of transportation– electric, autonomous, shared and continuous. As we grow as a nation, infrastructure integration seems to be the next large step to move transportation forward, including Electric Vehicle Wireless Power Transfer, community shared roadways with autonomous vehicles. Increased amounts of electric highways, alternative fueling stations along major roadways, and grid infrastructure will all move transportation forward into a cleaner and more economically viable future.

Thank you Dr. David Christensen for your leadership and support of Utah Clean Cities as the Chair of Board of Directors.

      

 

View the Electric Corridor Video here:

Robin Erickson and her unparalleled leadership and dedication to Clean Cities for over 20 years .  We announced the new graduate scholarship fund for the Utah Clean Cities Robin Erickson Legacy Scholarship

Many know Utah Clean Cities and in this knowing, they know Robin Erickson.  Robin has been an integral part of the organization and her tireless work for the coalition is nationally recognized and locally honored. We continually learn from her hard work and dedication, as she led Utah Clean Cities for 10 years. She administered the ARRA grant for Utah with record successes. Her work assisted Clean Cities Programs nation-wide to reach new heights with the Idle Free program and integrating alternative fuels to clean our air.

Her legacy will always continue with the introduction of the Utah Clean Cities Robin Erickson Legacy Scholarship. Each year starting in 2019, Utah Clean Cities will award a Graduate Student with similar dedication for transportation with the Robin Erickson Legacy Scholarship.

Thank you Robin for your unwavering leadership, we would not be where we are today without your work.

Continuous leadership of Senator Orrin Hatch and J.J. Brown Clean Air legislation, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Act and the Freedom Act and building the foundation of the, now nation-wide, Clean Cities organization

For two decades, J.J. Brown served on the staff of Senator Orrin G. Hatch’s energy and environmental committee, in Washington, DC. Drafting many ideas into bills and ushering dozens of bills into law for the Senator. He worked with, at least, seven Senate Committees and their House counterparts. The work of J.J. Brown and Senator Orrin Hatch accomplished paved the way for the National Clean Cities Program.

       

 

Leadership and dedication from Royal DeLegge, Chairperson of the Board

Dr. Royal DeLegge came on to the UCC board several years ago and became the president in 2015. His dedication to the board and to Utah Clean Cities has set our non-profit organization on a renewed path of continued success and ensured we have the support we need from our dream team board as we plan for the future. Thank you Dr. DeLegge.

 

 

 

                       

 

 

 

November 1st we celebrated our Silver Anniversary. It is mostly about the special people who dedicated their time to join us that makes it truly celebratory. We look forward to another 25 years- a time to build and strengthen our relationships, work together, reach our important climate milestones. Thank you, one and all, for being with Utah Clean Cities, for a long time or newly acquainted, may you all be near in the years ahead.

 

Click through the event pictures found below. Please share these pictures with all credit given to ​Jeri Jonise Gravlin