Sticking it to the Oilman

Gas in Vancouver hit $1.50 yesterday. If I owned this week’s tester, I might not care that much, but my name’s not on the title. The Clarity is due back with Honda next week, so I frick’n care about gas prices a lot, as do most Canadians who feel hosed at the pumps.

Thanks to the Clarity’s ability to deliver upwards of 76 kilometres of electric-only driving, I was able to keep the oilman’s greasy fingers out of my wallet this week, and frankly, it felt good.

As a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), the Clarity blends the benefits of a fully-electric vehicle with the convenience and practicality of a gas vehicle. The combination of these power sources puts a total range on the clock of 547 kilometres when the battery is fully charged and the tank completely full.

I predict that this “best of both worlds” will drive a huge spike in sales as the motoring public wakeup to “having their cake and eating it too!” No longer is an electric car relegated to “second vehicle” status.

With PHEV technology, daily commutes can largely be handled by the Clarity’s electric-only range. Come the weekend, travel is unlimited provided the oilman appears every 500 kilometres or so.

PHEVs are generally too restrictive in size and the scope of their practicality for buyers seeking the attributes and capabilities of an all-wheel-drive crossover or SUV. Mitsubishi has addressed this with the release of the PHEV Outlander, which is a good start; no doubt other manufacturers will follow if demand builds.

Apart from the Outlander, these limitations make the existing selection of PHEV unsuitable for my garage at this point in their development. Nonetheless, the technology is moving rapidly in the right direction, and the Clarity is a fine example of this.

With a somewhat polarizing design, the Clarity is not a small car. In fact, it’s a spacious 4-door sedan with seating for five. It falls between the Honda CR-V and the full-size Honda Pilot in length.

It’s also a relatively upscale, very-well equipped vehicle available in either standard or Touring trim levels, the latter featuring leather seating, navigation, and the Honda-Link app with Remote Commands.

The vehicle is pulled along by its front wheels, powered by a 17kWh battery and a 1.5L DOHC Atkinson-cycle gas engine. Combined output is rated at 232 horsepower flowing through an e-continuously-variable transmission.

The Clarity’s performance is lively, and certainly well-suited to city driving. When full power is needed for quick getaways or passing slower vehicles, the gas engine will immediately fire-up and add some additional kick if the vehicle had been driving solely on electric power.

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About The Author

Rob Rothwell has been involved in automotive journalism since 2002, writing for multiple online and print publications. He lives on the West Coast and is a member of the AJAC (Automotive Journalist Association of Canada). Rob’s passions include long drives on country roads in his convertible sports car, as well as cycling, skiing, kayaking, and sailing. Rob can often be found at the beach with his classic 80s Rainbow Laser, or tinkering in his workshop on his latest project.

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