Top Gear calls Honda Clarity “most important car in 100 years.”

I plan to make my next car either a Honda Civic or a Honda Fit if I ever get to a point where I can afford to take on a car payment, but if it takes long enough I may end up getting a Honda Clarity instead:

It’s very cool to see that the car has built-in feedback systems to encourage less fuel wasting driving habits. It’s also very cool to see that it’s a real production vehicle as well.

35 thoughts on “Top Gear calls Honda Clarity “most important car in 100 years.”

  1. Amazing, I have hope for the future. Lets get this crap subsidized by the government instead of ethanol.

  2. We talked about getting another car when Podling was born…but we just can’t afford a payment since our car is currently paid off.  We wanted something a little bigger since we travel out of state once a year to accommodate not only 4 ppl but all our junk there and back…and nothing bigger is even close to our price range.  We just have to stick with our Saturn.  🙁

  3. Interesting.  I never was impressed by electric cars such as the Prius, but I did test drive a Honda Fit when I was car shopping last year.  It was fun to drive, and I definitely liked it better than the CRV – though I was looking for an SUV. 

    Jay Leno’s car collection was cool.

  4. Well, as long as someone builds more hydrogen fuel pumps, maybe we’ll get somewhere.

    It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing.  They don’t want to build more fueling stations unless people start buying more hydrogen cars and people won’t buy more hydrogen cars until they have a fuel station that is relatively convenient.

    No matter what happens, they’ll be growing out of California and my brother will get one long before I do and rub my nose in it.  Then I’ll have to kill him, put his body in the trunk and drop his car in a lake…

    You didn’t hear that last part..okay?  smile

  5. That’s only half of the chicken and egg story.

    The other part is the price of the vehicle.

    Until it is mass produced the price will be far to high for the average person and as you already pointed out swordsbane, without a fueling station network people wont buy them if they can’t refuel them, or more precisely it isn’t too inconvenient to do so.

    Did find this though:

    Not for Sale
    Honda won’t be selling the Clarity, at least not in this initial iteration, because it is largely hand-assembled and stuffed with hideously expensive technology. The company won’t discuss the cost of each vehicle, but nobody on the Clarity team blinks when it’s suggested that Honda would have to charge at least $1 million apiece just to break even on the immediate production costs.

    Because it will cost about $15 billion to replicate the existing nationwide retail gasoline fueling system for hydrogen and nobody seems to be in a rush to spend that kind of money, Honda is working with partner Plug Power Inc. on a home hydrogen filling station.

    Read more here.

    Home hydrogen filling station, bet that will raise your home insurance quote!

    Having said all that it is a step in the right direction.

  6. As a nation we wouldn’t spend that kind of money on anything!

    Well, in a manner of speaking, of course you’re right, Dof:  the big expenditures of the U.S. government of late have been largely for nothing or perhaps even less than nothing: war and destruction.

  7. Egad, fifteen billion to set up a fuel network for hydrogen cars!  As a nation we wouldn’t spend that kind of money on anything!

    Well, we spent a couple billion on the telco’s to set up a fiber optic network and they just pocketed the money, so I’m not partial to just giving the oil companies or the auto industry the money (even Honda)  Maybe set up some incentives for them to do it though.

  8. Okay, I just watched the video.  It was interesting, but the explanations were poorly done.  Two very important considerations were ignored: one, James May said that “hydrogen will never run out”.  True, but meaningless: the real question is, how do we extract and deliver hydrogen, and at what cost, financially and environmentally?  Secondly: May made a big point of contrasting the Clarity with other electric cars that run from batteries, which he characterized as being wimpy (I don’t remember the exact terms he used).  What he should have said is this: the hydrogen/fuel cell drive, like the gasoline engine, has a better power to weight ratio than current batteries.

    But batteries are improving all the time; and while it’s risky to predict scientific advances, I would put my money on further increases in battery efficiency.  If batteries can increase their power to weight ratio sufficiently, at a reasonable price, then they are a much better deal than fuel cells running from hydrogen: electricity can be produced and delivered much more easily and safely than hydrogen.

    But in any case: public transportation is, no matter what the driving force, more efficient in terms of energy use and space required, than individual cars.  Biking is more efficient yet.  The perfect car is not the only thing we need, if we want to populate the planet sustainably.

  9. Hydrogen is doomed from the start.

    Have we all forgotten our basic science? Hydrogen takes a very large amount of energy to extract from its bonds. Unless somebody discovers a radical new way to extract it, hydrogen powered vehicles will always be very inefficient and dirty.

    Hydrogen as a “clean” fuel option is nothing but a pipe dream and marketing.

  10. That’s not quite true, Moloch.  You have to look at hydrogen as a means of storing energy generated elsewhere.  Generally speaking, it’s possible to more efficiently and cleanly generate energy centrally than locally: you can have large, heavy, power plants that are relatively clean and efficient, that produce either hydrogen, say, or electricity, which is utilized in vehicles.  But hydrogen storage is more expensive and problematic.

  11. That’s not quite true, Moloch.  You have to look at hydrogen as a means of storing energy generated elsewhere.  Generally speaking, it’s possible to more efficiently and cleanly generate energy centrally than locally: you can have large, heavy, power plants that are relatively clean and efficient, that produce either hydrogen, say, or electricity, which is utilized in vehicles.  But hydrogen storage is more expensive and problematic.

    Looked at that way, hydrogen already better than gasoline to make.  We see gasoline as cheap because a lot of the “production” process takes place without our help, but even if you just include what it takes for us to get oil out of the ground and turn it into gas, it’s dirty and expensive and rather difficult.  Hydrogen is clean and expensive and easy.  Once you actually get it to the car, guess which one I choose?

    People are coming up with ideas for storage and transport of hydrogen all the time, kind of like batteries.  Until a few years ago, no one paid it much attention.  Now that they are, there are options.  Just like batteries thought, these new ideas are pretty expensive.  Only time and experience will bring that down, but once it does, there wont be any other fuel out there that has the same potentials as hydrogen.  Oil is running out, bio-fuels need more land than we can provide, nuclear power is dangerous and produces messy dangerous by-products.  If you have a pure EV, you still have to make the electricity somewhere along the line, and you also have to take a long time to charge an EV.  Leaving it charging overnight is one thing, but I don’t want to spend 4 hours at a gas station.  Unless capacity gets to the point where I can drive across the country on one charge, they’ll have to deal with that problem, and that’s a thornier issue than the storage problems that hydrogen has.

    Neither a pure EV or a hydrogen car is quite ready for primetime, but I wouldn’t count hydrogen out just yet.

  12. Battery powered vehicles are already quite practical.  It’s been done, it’s been shown, and only cultural inertia keeps us from having them on the road right now. 

    It is true that they are not practical for long highway trips.  But for commuting they’re the shizzle.

  13. None of that faces the fact that the energy needed to extract the hydrogen has to come from somewhere and that energy will be more than the hydrogen has. Storage and transport are cake compared to actually getting it in the first place. Solar and wind are too weak, expensive and unreliable. Hydro is very damaging to the environment and not practical in most places. Coal and natural gas are dirty and inefficient. Nuclear is the best option but that long-term waste disposal is still a big problem.

    Reality is, as with EV, the vast majority of the electricity will come from dirty coal power plants.

    EV the shizzle? Yeah, I would like recharging my car for 16 hours so I can drive 150 miles.  smile

  14. The car companies have long said that any car that gets less than 300 miles to a fill-up wouldn’t sell in the United States. That’s largely true for a lot of people, but there are some that recognize the value of a shorter range purely electric car.

    Hydrogen power becomes cleaner if you can manage to utilize other renewable energy sources to do the extraction. Solar, geothermal, wind, or tidal generated power could all be used to power an extraction process, but so long as the electricity comes from coal then you’re just shifting the spot where the dirt comes from.

  15. swordsbane, what you said.  I would take hydrogen over gasoline too, given the choice.  But I still think, in the long run, we’re better off working on better batteries.  Of course, I could be mistaken, and it might be that substantially increasing the energy density of batteries will turn out to be an intractable problem.

    Moloch: You’ve pointed out problems with all current energy sources.  Your solution would be…?

    My current solution: I have no car.  This works in Europe.  I do depend on occasional rides in gas-powered cars with friends, to pick up or dump stuff, and I do depend upon kerosene-burning jet engines to get across the Atlantic- although British Air has a voluntary CO2 tax, which (supposedly) offsets the CO2 burden, and which I pay.  As Greg Bear said, no one with a mouth and a need is innocent.  But if a practical, cheap, electric car is developed, I’d be very interested.

  16. Moloch: You’ve pointed out problems with all current energy sources.  Your solution would be…?

    Geothermal and/or nuclear. If we could harness Yellowstone for its energy (I know, national treasure, will never happen), the USA would be set for its power needs. Clean, cheap, renewable and minimal environment damage.

  17. so long as the electricity comes from coal then you’re just shifting the spot where the dirt comes from.

    There’s lots of ways to make electricity.  About 10 miles from where I’m sitting is an enormous windfarm.  25 miles from here is a nuclear plant.

    But yeah… absolutely quit the coal plants!  Time for that dirty technology to go.  At minimum, stop building the damn things.

  18. swordsbane, what you said.  I would take hydrogen over gasoline too, given the choice.  But I still think, in the long run, we’re better off working on better batteries.  Of course, I could be mistaken, and it might be that substantially increasing the energy density of batteries will turn out to be an intractable problem.

    I can see a world where about 80% of the cars out there are EV’s.  The problem is that other 20%.  That 20% will only be inhabited by cars that have the same capabilities as gas powered cars do now, which means around 100 mph, 300 mile range and about a 2-3 minute refuel-recharge time.  If EVs can reach that point someday then cool.  However, you still need to generate the electricity and I think that recharge time is further off than a practical HFC car.

    Hydrogen has one advantage that people constantly underestimate:  It is ridiculously simple to produce.  Anyone can do it.  There are a number of materials that can be broken down to produce hydrogen, none of them as toxic or messy as oil, coal or uranium.  It still is, and my always be the cleanest and most abundant fuel available, even if it is hard to store and transport.  My personal belief is that we have an obligation to make it work, even if it turns out to be ultimately a little more expensive.

    And Moloch, solar is not weak.  It is considerably higher tech than most other fuels, so start-up is more difficult, but it is ultimately the cheapest, and the efficiency of solar cells is growing every year.  Decentralizing our power grid and regulation issues is the biggest obstacle to solar power right now.

    The bottom line is that it’s not really the technology.  If you took the subsidy money that the oil industry gets, you would have enough cash to turn hydrogen into a practical fuel for cars overnight.  Why we don’t do that right now is as obvious as it is depressing.  It begins with an “L” and ends with “obbyist bastards”

  19. swordsbane, Electrolysis has been around for 200 years. Compare the energy contained in the hydrogen produced and the energy in the fuel used to generate that electricity. You’ll find its heavily lop-sided to the fuel used to produce the electricity. That is why we can’t do that right now. With the USA consuming over 22 million barrels of oil per day, producing an equivalent amount of hydrogen simply isn’t possible with known technology.

    Electrolysis is definitely NOT the way to produce hydrogen.

  20. swordsbane, Electrolysis has been around for 200 years. Compare the energy contained in the hydrogen produced and the energy in the fuel used to generate that electricity. You’ll find its heavily lop-sided to the fuel used to produce the electricity. That is why we can’t do that right now. With the USA consuming over 22 million barrels of oil per day, producing an equivalent amount of hydrogen simply isn’t possible with known technology.

    Electrolysis is definitely NOT the way to produce hydrogen.

    Never said it was, nor did I say that it was possible or even desirable to replace all gas burning cars with HFC cars.  What I said was that hydrogen is easy to produce and HFC cars could easily replace those cars that can’t be replaced with EV’s.  EV’s can replace commuter cars right now.  The amount of extra electricity we’d use will be more than offset by the CO2 and CO we don’t put into the air.  That is most of the cars out there right now.  That leaves the family cars used for road trips, specialty vehicles like haulers and long-range couriers.  Those CAN be replaced by HFC cars given a decent amount of start-up capital to create the infrastructure.

    As to how to replace our coal power plants….. don’t know… but at this point, I’ll take nuclear rather than coal.  Maybe by the time we get the car problem worked out, fusion will be practical.  Considering more than half our emissions are coming from either cars or emissions from refineries to make gasoline, cars are a bigger issue.

  21. The car companies have long said that any car that gets less than 300 miles to a fill-up wouldn’t sell in the United States. That’s largely true for a lot of people, but there are some that recognize the value of a shorter range purely electric car.

    Isn’t that being somewhat apologetic to the car companies?

    Best I could find was data from 2005:

    Life for commuters can be heaven or hell. They report an average one-way commute time of 26 minutes (over an average distance of 16 miles). But the variance is huge: On the best days, the average commute is 19 minutes; on the worst days, 46 minutes. That means traffic, at its worst, can double the average commute time, adding 27 minutes each way.

    The census confirms the driving times too.

    Anyway, if we created solar powered or wind powered grid-tied charging stations for EVs, than even those with long commutes would be fine. We have the ability to create an infrastructure that supports EVs, but don’t because we need our oil.

  22. We have the ability to create an infrastructure that supports EVs, but don’t because we need our oil.

    We don’t need to create it.  We already HAVE the infrastructure to support EVs.  Electricity is already piped into every structure that is designed to have people or vehicles in it.  The only thing we still need is the ability to process all those worn out batteries.  We already recycle batteries, but if everyone went out and bought EV’s, once those batteries started to go bad, I’m sure we’d have a capacity problem in the recycling process.

  23. We already recycle catalytic converters, even though there’s only a few grams of platinum, palladium, or rhodium in them.  I have seen a few back-of-envelope calculations ‘proving’ that the carbon-production of battery manufacture in a hybrid makes it not worth the effort.  But it ignores that the batteries will be recycled, any number of times.  When there’s money to be made doing it, capacity will emerge.  All we have to do is make sure it is done in an environmentally responsible way, and not on the shores of some lake in China.

  24. I dunno, I’d rather them be doing it in China than here. In fact I’d prefer if all of the unpleasant industrial processes that go into modern life were done someplace else. It would be nice if we could do it someplace else without people around it, but when it comes down to the wire I’m all for the sewers of life opening in other people’s backyards.

    That’s one of the reasons, by and by, I’m all for generalized improvements in efficiency and “green” engineering. I’m not without empathy entirely, so I’m all for promoting things that decrease the levels of misery my modern lifestyle promotes wherever it might happen – even if I’m definitely not going to be selfless about the subject.

  25. In fact I’d prefer if all of the unpleasant industrial processes that go into modern life were done someplace else.

    The problem is that with some things, like stuff that affects the climate, it doesn’t matter much where it’s done.  It might as well be in our backyards.  Whatever China spews into the air or the oceans, we get to suffer right along with them when it comes right down to it.  If they skimp on disease control in favor of industrialization, and a new deadly virus is spawned, a single business traveler can spread it all over the world in 24 hours.  If Brazil allows the rain forest to be destroyed, we ALL will probably have to be living in domes in a hundred years.  It isn’t something you can negotiate away or write a new tariff to make up the difference.  To an increasingly greater degree, we will survive or not survive based on what we ALL do or don’t do.

    NIMBY never really made much sense.  These days, it’s pretty stupid.  If you don’t want it in your backyard, you probably shouldn’t be supporting it in the first place.

  26. There are other considerations than climate and the ecology, and if a process is dangerous globally but also necessary then it stands to reason that, since it doesn’t matter where it’s at, there’s no reason to promote such unpleasantness in your own backyard when others are available at a price.

  27. There are other considerations than climate and the ecology, and if a process is dangerous globally but also necessary then it stands to reason that, since it doesn’t matter where it’s at, there’s no reason to promote such unpleasantness in your own backyard when others are available at a price.

    I have yet to see a process that is inherently dangerous on a global scale, yet necessary.  Even the production of oil can be done away with if we are willing to make the effort.  As for the rest, it depends on the price, but if you think it’s necessary and you’re not willing to have it next door, then you either need to re-evaluate what you think is necessary or what you think is dangerous.

  28. I have yet to see a process that is inherently dangerous on a global scale, yet necessary.

    Really? You haven’t? Have you been looking?

    There’s all sorts of mining processes that are filthy, dangerous things that rely on chemicals are also filthy, dangerous things to exist. Now, I suppose one could argue “we could do with all that, if only we’d learn to live with nature and kumbayah like our ancestors in the trees did” but that’s not really a rational argument. Like I’ve said in other threads, I’m all for practical steps that can be done to protect the environment and efficiencies that improve our lives – but at some point what you’re describing passes “green” and enters Luddite territory. Seriously though, if you don’t think that nasty industrial processes won’t/don’t have to be a part of your modern life then you’re just not looking.

    Maybe eventually we’ll find a away to do industrial chemical engineering without transitioning through stages of stuff that melts your face off in contact or won’t smell like a six week old rotting corpse or won’t explode into a poisonous chemical cloud under the right conditions but I don’t think those days are any time soon yet. Make all those things as safe and as least damaging as possible? Sure, I’m all for that. That doesn’t mean I want to live next to it, and if your principles suggest to you that YOU should live to it out of a sense of fairness then alright, but I think you’re a fool.

  29. I suppose one could argue “we could do with all that, if only we’d learn to live with nature and kumbayah like our ancestors in the trees did” but that’s not really a rational argument.

    It also isn’t what Swordsbane said; the operative words are “dangerous on a global scale”.  Nasty industrial processes can be a big problem for their local areas, but not on a global scale.  Even the infamous Hanford plant only threatens a small part of the state of Washington and dumps don’t get any nastier than that.  And of course we know how to make chemical and nuclear facilities much safer than they used to be.

    But it really isn’t necessary to cut down the rain forests, or mine gigatonnes of coal to produce energy.  We don’t have to strip the seas of their top predators or use old, topsoil-destroying farming methods. Easy, yes, expedient, certainly.  But necessary?  Not when there are alternatives that produce far less global environmental damage.

  30. And neither did I talk about cutting down rain forests, unless by extension every time someone proclaims “I’d rather them be doing in China than here” you’re somehow inclined to go “Oh noes! The rain forests!” 

    Color me unimpressed with the logic.

  31. And neither did I talk about cutting down rain forests

    No, you didn’t.  That was an example of a process that is dangerous on a global scale, which is what we were talking about.  Rain forests are being cut down to make room for sugar cane crops to make ethanol – a process deemed necessary but which in my view is only expedient, convenient, profitable.

    The examples you gave were dangerous on a local scale, if not managed properly.  I once knew a guy from Bophal; he described the horrors of the accident at the Union Carbide plant there.  But that is not a necessary property of chemical processing – if the plant had been properly managed it would not have happened.  The horrible – and very necessary – chemicals would have been contained within the process instead of running amuck. As a customer of Union Carbide and simply as a human being, I want them to run their plants in India as safely as their plants here.  Seems to me that NIMBY expresses the opposite sentiment.

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