Honda’s electric past, present, and future.
For an automaker so dominant across multiple segments, there’s a significant hole in Honda’s lineup. Compared to Ford and its Mustang Mach-E, Chevrolet with the Bolt and Bolt EUV, and Nissan and its Leaf, Honda notably lacks a dedicated electric vehicle for the North American market. That will soon change.
Current Honda Electric Cars
If you live in the U.S. and want an electric Honda, you can’t have one because the automaker doesn’t sell any full-electric vehicles here. If you’re looking for an electrified Honda, the automaker’s only current offering is the Accord-sized Honda Clarity. Most examples are plug-in hybrids, featuring an electric motor and 17-kWh lithium-ion battery and a 1.5-liter gas-fed I-4. The gas engine primarily acts as a generator for the battery while the electric motor handles propulsion, but the engine can also contribute to acceleration at full throttle.
With a full battery, the plug-in Clarity can travel 47 miles on electricity alone. It delivers 110 mpg-e combined running on gas and electricity, or 42 mpg combined on gas alone. The gas generator means drivers won’t have to worry about the range anxiety associated with fully electric vehicles, but of course, the gas engine still emits 57 grams of CO2 per mile according to the EPA.
The other alternative is the Clarity Fuel Cell. That car employs an electric motor powered by hydrogen, not a gas generator, and it’s only sold in select California markets with the hydrogen infrastructure to support such a vehicle. The Fuel Cell variant boasts an impressive 360-mile range on a full tank. Hydrogen can be tricky to find, though, and Honda only offers the Clarity Fuel Cell on lease; you can’t buy one. That said, the zero-tailpipe-emission promise of hydrogen is enticing.
The Honda EV You Can’t Have
Not that Honda doesn’t build a dedicated EV. In the European and Japanese markets, buyers can land an adorable, beautifully executed little hatchback dubbed the Honda e. It sports a 35.5-kWh battery and a rear-mounted electric motor producing either 134 or 152 horsepower. Range numbers read 124-137 miles on the WLTP combined cycle, which gives more generous ratings than the EPA. Honda says the battery can be charged from 0 to 80 percent capacity in as little as 30 minutes.
The Honda e’s range is uncompetitive for the North American market, but we’re more interested in the enthusiast aspect. Of course, this is no sports car, but the Honda e offers perfect 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution and a low center of gravity, all in a package 8.1 inches shorter than the now-discontinued Honda Fit. It’s rad inside, too, with stylish cloth seats, a swath of real wood trim, and what seems like as much screen real estate as the new Cadillac Escalade.
When we had a chance to drive the Honda e, we came away thoroughly impressed. Tight dimensions and great visibility make it a terrific city car, ride quality is plenty comfortable, and it was even pleasant on the highway. Most American-market EVs offer more in terms of range and outright performance, but it would be hard to compete with this pint-sized Honda on charm.
Honda’s Electric SUV Future
Worry not, though, America’s electric Honda is on the way. General Motors—the parent company behind Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC—will be producing Honda-designed vehicles on the Ultium electric architecture set to underpin the upcoming Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer EV.
We got more details on the deal in January of this year. Honda and GM are working on two vehicles set to start production in 2023, a mainstream Honda SUV and a more luxury-focused Acura SUV. The Honda may share styling cues with the Honda SUV e Concept, which made its debut at the 2020 Beijing Motor Show.
Honda’s Electric Past
Not to say Honda is new to the electric car game. The automaker’s first shot at a battery-powered car came in the form of the EV Plus, a Japan-only early EV of which Honda built just 300 examples back in the late 1990s.