The Honda Fuel Cell Clarity sedan has a 366-mile range! Hooray! In other news, I also have one hundred million Italian lira stashed in a shoebox under my bed in Brooklyn. Both are about equally useful.
The news that Honda’s fuel cell car has such a good range is happy news. Hydrogen fuel cell cars have enormous potential—but the lack the infrastructure that would make them great in the real world.
I’m reading this news in New York City, New York. On the East Coast. Here’s what Honda had to say about the Clarity:
Honda will introduce the new 5-passenger, hydrogen-powered Clarity Fuel Cell sedan by the end of 2016, beginning with retail leasing to customers through its expanded network of 12 approved fuel cell vehicle dealerships located in select California markets. The network includes six dealerships in Southern California, five in the Bay Area and one in Sacramento. Honda will further develop its dealer network as more hydrogen fueling stations become available.
This means that the Clarity makes no sense outside of a certain range beyond the hydrogen fueling station. In California.
(Well, technically you can truck your Honda Clarity to the Northeast, and then beg and plead and try to let a government worker let you into a lovely place like the National Park Service Brentwood Maintenance Facility, but it’s unlikely.)
I understand that electric cars had this same problem with charging stations not too long ago. But you know what Tesla did when people raised the question of charging away from home? It helped build charging stations all over the country.
Building a large-scale hydrogen infrastructure is an expensive move, there’s no doubt about that. As it stands right now, it seems that the Clarity’s leasing program is only available in the state of California. If the car runs out of juice anywhere else, it just becomes a living room sofa, hopefully parked on the street.
But at the same time, if Honda wants to own the space of hydrogen fuel cell cars—I’m talking diving in, none of this dipping its toes in business—it can’t be completely passive about the infrastructure, either. Take some risks! Spend some money!
It’ll be worth it.