VW literally could not give away its electric Golf ($46/month lease deals) mainly because the thing couldn’t go much farther than 80 miles on a charge – and that was “best case.”
Now comes the 2018 Honda Clarity, which will have a range of …. about 80 miles.
That figure puts the Honda well behind the Chevrolet Bolt’s advertised 238 mile range (your actual mileage will vary) and nearly every other battery-electric vehicle on the market. And it leaves Honda to tackle a tough problem: how to build a cutting-edge brand image around its Clarity line of electrified vehicles with an EV whose range barely tops that of a Nissan Leaf circa 2010.
The shortfall is not a failure of its engineering, Honda says, but the unavoidable result of its choices.
The automaker defined two parameters that were nonnegotiable: the physical size of the Clarity platform – which the EV shares with the Clarity plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell models – and the cost of the battery-electric version, which is expected to start around $35,000 before any tax credits or incentives.
With those hard points, Honda didn’t leave itself any leeway to fit a longer-range battery, which would have been heavier and costlier.
“A pillar of the Honda brand is affordability, and if Honda came out with some obscenely priced long-range electric car, what does that do for the brand?” Steve Center, vice president of environmental business development at American Honda Motor, told the trade publication Automotive News.
“Most of our customers would not be able to acquire it.”
Just how big a handicap the modest range figure will be remains to be seen. Thanks to regulatory pressures in California and other states, the number of electric and electrified vehicles on the market is expanding rapidly. While consumers haven’t gravitated to these vehicles in large numbers, those who do will soon be able to choose among many similarly priced options that offer varying combinations of size, range and brand cachet.
“To some degree, it’s all white space,” said Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst for IHS Markit, “and the market is going to spend the next several years figuring it out and where people want to buy in the spectrum of size and range. You just need to get it out there and see how people react.”