Honda has discontinued sales of its Clarity EV in North America for 2020. Given that the manufacturer was one of the few OEMs to publicly express doubts about rampant electrification, this shouldn’t come as a complete surprise — with any residual shock being nullified by the model’s lackluster demand.
Between the Clarity Electric, (hydrogen) Fuel Cell, and Plug-In Hybrid models, Honda only saw 11,654 U.S. deliveries last year. That’s a marked decline against the 20,000 units sold in 2018 and a hint as to why the EV has been quietly put out to pasture. Most of those sales undoubtedly went to the nationally available Clarity Hybrid. Fueling restrictions have locked the hydrogen variant to California, with the Electric similarly being isolated to the Golden State and Oregon (the Beaver State).
According to Green Car Reports, Honda confirmed that it abandoned the car at the start of this year. It also removed the Clarity Electric from its consumer sites in Japan and Canada. That leaves the company with no battery-only offerings until the Honda E arrives in Europe and Japan this summer. While originally planned for North America as well, the business ultimately decided the electric city car wasn’t suited for the market — something that might also have been true for the Clarity.
Drivers on this continent tend to cover more ground in a single trip, making range anxiety a serious issue for prospective EV buyers. The Clarity attempted to get around this with relatively swift recharging times. With help from DC fast-charging ports, Honda said the Electric could recoup 80 percent of its maximum charge in just 30 minutes. The model’s 25.5-KWh battery was also extremely efficient for its size, but positively microscopic when compared to the packs found in other EVs. As a result, the Clarity’s official range was only 89 miles.
While a relative bargain at just $199 per month with less than a grand down for a three-year lease, the Clarity Electric’s abysmal range pigeonholed it as an urban commuter. Lacking versatility, we imagine a lot of customers opted for the Hybrid or took their money elsewhere. But don’t take this as a signal that Honda is getting out of the EV market. The Clarity always seemed like an attempt to test various powertrain types on the public, rather than a serious attempt to draw in new customers.
The company has said it intends to make the majority of its vehicle electrified (at least to some degree) by 2030. However, this might not look exactly the same as what other manufacturers are proposing. While many automakers are scaling down displacement as they hunt for a way to supplant BEVs as the dominant vehicle type, Honda has been adamant that consumers will only care about the resulting efficiencies stemming from battery tech. From a corporate standpoint, its singularly interested in maximizing fuel economy.
That mindset has encouraged the automaker to remain focused on hybridization and further improving internal combustion engines, rather than sinking its wealth into battery development. Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo has also said that complicating the customer experience with long charging times isn’t desirable. He believes electrification has to broadly benefit the user experience to hold any real value and worries that the slow take rate of many EVs is the direct result of this being ignored. By staying with hybrids, Honda thinks it can cater to the environmental regulations of multiple markets without having to stick out its neck to fickle consumers.