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Hydrogen cars offer all of the benefits of plug-in electric vehicles – massive torque and zero emissions – with no charging time. The Clarity Fuel Cell isn’t the world’s first production hydrogen car – the Hyundai Tucson and the Toyota Mirai launched earlier this year.

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Whereas the Mirai has a flowing form defined by sweeping lines and swooping air intakes, the Clarity Fuel Cell is crisp and angular. It’s also the first hydrogen car to house its entire powertrain under its hood, which frees up space for five seats inside. Honda accomplished the feat by shrinking the size of the fuel cell stack by 33% to roughly the size of a V6 gasoline engine.

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The Clarity Fuel Cell has 174 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, and it can travel from 0-60 mph in 9 seconds. It runs on compressed hydrogen gas, which is stored in a tank under the rear passenger seats. The car’s fueling time is about 3 minutes – roughly the same as a gasoline-powered car – and as long as the source of the hydrogen is clean, it truly is a zero emissions vehicle.

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Of course, the feasibility of of hydrogen cars hinges upon infrastructure. Whereas Germany and Japan are leading the world in fuel cell infrastructure, hydrogen stations are still few and far between in the United States. California has committed $100 million to build 100 stations by the year 2020, however there are currently only four stations in operation. Fortunately, that number should rise to 11 by the end of the year and to 41 by the end of 2016.

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Honda is planning to launch sales of the Clarity Fuel Cell next year in the United States, starting in California. From there they plan to ramp up sales over the next four years. Honda didn’t mention any exact pricing details, but they expect it to fall in line with other vehicles in the segment (the Mirai starts at $58,325).

The Clarity Fuel Cell platform will also serve as the basis for an upcoming plug-in electric hybrid that will be available in all 50 states by 2018. It will feature a next-gen two motor system and it should be able to travel 39 miles in all-electric mode – triple the range of the Accord Plug-In.

+ Honda

Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat