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Car and Driver: The High Price of Hydrogen: Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Will Sticker for Nearly $60K

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Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

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Michael Jackson, a Southern Californian singing earth songs (“What about the common man? / What about hy-dro-gen?”), might have been Honda’s ideal celebrity customer for the first FCX Clarity. Sadly, the King of Pop is still dead and hydrogen cars remain expensive and available only to Californians. That’s true for Toyota, it’s true for Hyundai (the only other two automakers selling hydrogen-powered cars here), and it’s the case also for the new Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, which will cost some $60,000 when it arrives in California late this year.

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Initially, Honda will lease the Clarity Fuel Cell for just under $500 per month (Honda didn’t specify the down payment or the lease duration); later it will open the car to regular sale “coincident with increasing vehicle supplies and the growing hydrogen refueling station network.” Or never. But let’s look on the bright side: That’s an improvement over the FCX Clarity’s lease-only $600-per-month deal when it launched in 2008. And while the Clarity is disqualified from any federal tax credits since it’s not a battery-electric car, California will hand out a $5000 cash rebate, which goes directly to the purchaser or lessee.

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Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

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Californians who’ve passed Honda’s screening process—an application, some phone calls, but not, we’re told, an interview or a home visit—can order one in Los Angeles and Orange counties, plus the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. You’ll certainly be denied if you don’t plan to register the car in California or don’t live within the Clarity’s 300-mile driving range to the nearest hydrogen refueling station. White, black, and red are the only colors, with standard LED headlamps and 18-inch wheels.

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Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

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How does this hydrogen Honda compare to similar models from Toyota and Hyundai? The Mirai costs $58,335 or can be leased at $499 per month for 36 months after $3649 down. The Tucson Fuel Cell shares the same lease terms, except offers a lower down payment of $2999. Hyundai won’t allow outright purchases. But Toyota, ever bullish, has promised it would expand Mirai availability to a handful of states in the Northeast this year, if enough hydrogen stations get built.

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Other alternative-fuel Honda models are coming. The 2017 Accord Hybrid goes on sale this spring, while an entirely separate plug-in hybrid model based on the Clarity will debut “by 2018,” and offer more than 39 miles of electric range. That one, destined for all 50 states, could be for you and for me.

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