Clarity Uncovered: Wheels


Aerodynamic wheels covers have been in the news lately with the new Tesla Model 3, but it isn’t the only car to use such a device to improve air flow over the wheel.  The turning spokes of wheels really churn up the air and at high speeds can add a significant amount of drag to the car.

Unfortunately, they don’t always look as nice as a set of classy wheels.  We have seen the Model 3 without the wheels covers, and they look like a pretty generic set of alloys.  The Honda Clarity also has removable wheel covers, but how do the wheels look underneath?

I cleaned my garage some today and brought out the trusty old jack.  Loosened the lug nuts and lifted it up.  After removing the 5 lug nuts completely the wheel cover still didn’t come off immediately.  Removing the entire wheel and it was easy to tell that the covers were held in place with many plastic snaps all around the wheel.  Squeezing these releases lightly from the back freed them and the cover came off after that.  You must remove the lug nuts as they hold the cap on in the center.

So how do the wheels look without the cover?


Terrible.  They went right back on.  Here is a closeup of the snap holding them on.



Cold Weather EVs

Is your new Clarity Plug In (Hybrid or EV) not getting the EPA estimated range of 47 miles for the hybrid or 89 miles for the EV?  If you live in an area in the US experiencing below average temperatures, you can probably look to heater usage.


A quick note specific to the Clarity PHEV/EV: The middle gauge on the car is the battery charge level, the left gauge on the PHEV (Right on EV) is the estimated range vs the EPA range.  This isn’t a state of charge gauge as it might appear at first.  It simply states that based on current driving, my estimated range is only 27 miles even with a fully charged battery.  This was when the high temps were around 0F.

So why does an EV do worse than a gas car?  A typical gas engine car has around 25% thermal efficiency.  What does that even mean?  Besides being very energy inefficient, it means that for every 1 gallon of gas burned, only 1/4 of the energy is going to power the car.  The other 3/4 is lost as heat, about half of that is lost out the exhaust pipe, and the other half is captured by the coolant in the engine.  This is the heat that can be used to heat the cabin, and essentially for free.

An electric car has no built in “free” heater, and has to use electric heat.  This can come in the form of a heat pump that runs the AC “backwards” to draw heat energy from the environment to heat the cabin or from a resistance heater that acts somewhat like the heating coil in your oven.  Both of these take a massive amount of power.  Heat pumps are more efficient around 20 or 30 F and resistance heat is required around 0F and less.

So what does this have to do with your range?  An electric resistance heater can draw up to 7 or 8 kw of power.  To put this in perspective, this is about the same power the main electric motors will use in the car cruising at low speeds.  It takes a massive amount of power to heat a car when you aren’t using the “Free” engine heat.

If the heater is drawing 8 kw, it can drain a 12 kwh battery in about 1.5 hours.  Just the heater.  This would mean every 10 minutes the heater would use about 1.3 kwh of battery.  This is a lot of power, and it isn’t going to move the car.

The heater in the Clarity seems to be a heat pump, which is more efficient at warmer temperatures.  It probably draws up to 3 kw (I haven’t measure this, so I could be wrong, Honda doesn’t advertise the capabilities of the heater).  Still, this means 0.5 kwh every 10 minutes of heater use.

What does this work out to in reality?  If you drive 35 miles in 60 mins, you might use up to 3 kwh for the heater, which amounts to maybe 12 miles of range.  In other words, your range would be about 35 instead of 47.  It is slightly more complicated than this, as cold batteries aren’t as efficient as warm ones, so that will result in some range loss as well.

My point is, it is normal to lose between 25% and 50% electric range depending on temperature and heater in the vehicle, as well as if the battery has a heater or not.  A car with a heater for the battery might not lose as much EV range, but will draw power from the wall to heat the battery.  For example, on very cold nights, my Volt might draw 2 kwh over night to keep the battery warm.  The Clarity PHEV (US Model) does not have a battery heater so won’t draw from the wall unless it is charging or pre-conditioning.

As an EV shopper you need to buy extra range in cold climates.  A minimum of 2x your expected range, but 3x or 4x might make you more comfortable and account for any aging losses if you own the car 10 years or more.

2018 Honda Clarity PHEV Review Part 2 – Impressions and Cold Weather Driving


Now that we have put 1000 miles on our 2018 Clarity PHEV I have the answers to a couple questions: how has the car handled temperatures plunging to well below 0F and how have my driving impressions changed?

I have really grown to love the Clarity.  The night I first drove it I wasn’t sold on it, but my wife was going to be the primary driver of the vehicle, so it was ultimately up to her.  So what has changed to make me love the car so much?


The night I first drove the car was on a very cold evening after a cold day when the car was sitting outside unplugged.  Unfortunately, Lithium-ion batteries like the one used in the Clarity PHEV don’t like cold temperatures, it lowers their power output and so I think my driving experience was limited from the car not wanting to draw too much power from the battery.

The sport mode on my 2012 Volt gives the car improved response from the go pedal, and also the Volt has normal (D selected on shifter) or high regen (L selected on shifter) modes.  Many of us like to drive the Volt in Sport with L selected.  When I tried Sport on the first night I test drove the Clarity, I think it was being limited by cold battery with no charge so my opinion of it was somewhat negative.


Driving Dynamics

Now that I have had the car for several weeks, I found the performance of Sport mode on the Clarity PHEV to be very good.  It still won’t set any land speed records, but it will accelerate much faster than most traffic does on a regular basis, meaning it is fast enough assuming you aren’t trying to race people.  It doesn’t have quite as much punch from 0 mph as the Volt, but as soon as it gets rolling it accelerates briskly.

I also found the regeneration improved as long as the battery is warmer.  With the Clarity in Sport mode, if you pull the left paddle on the back of the steering wheel, the regeneration level will increase from 1 to 4 chevrons and stay at the level you set (other modes it clears after a stop).  With the car set at 4 chevrons it is fairly close to my 2012 Volt in L mode.

A few notes, sometimes the regen level will change spontaneously in Sport mode.  If it is very cold out it appears the chevrons will reduce from 4 to 2 after a stop, and setting the cruise control at speed on the highway will also cause the regen level to reset.  Finally, setting the car in park will cause it to reset.  There might be other cases I don’t know about as well.

Camera and Sun

The backup camera has a few modes: ultra-wide, wide, and straight down.  These modes are all from the same camera, but they have different processing to the image to show different things.  Sorry if I get a little technical here, it is my camera background.


The ultrawide view is basically an orthographic fisheye view that shows everything the camera sees.  This adds a circular distortion to the image, but gives you the widest possible view and the benefit to this fisheye view is that scales of objects seen will be accurate, but they will have curvature to them.  The outside corners of the screen are cut off and everything is curved.


The wide view is something like stereographic fisheye projection.  It corrects some of the curvature out, but tries to keep scales accurate.  This view makes smaller objects easier to see and straightens everything out significantly, but you lose field of view to the sides.


The straight down view is a near rectilinear, but still has some fisheye distortion, of the bottom part of the image.  It really helps if you are parking up against something very closely and need to see how your bumper lines up, but you lose all your backwards view.  Only use this for the last few feet in a difficult spot, not for backing out of your driveway onto a street with traffic.


What happens if the sunlight hits the screen and instrument cluster?  For one, the center screen will show any fingerprints that might be on it. Gross.


The instrument cluster is better, but does wash out.  The import information is still visible, like speed, but some other lighter color text disappears, like READY indicator, etc.  The center screen is angled such that the sun rarely hits it and reflects in your face, but when it does it is glossy and reflective.



Low Temperatures

At low temperatures, the Volt runs in a special mode known as Engine Running Due to Temperature (ERDTT).  At low temperatures (25 F on my 2012, 15 or 35 on the 2013 or newer) the engine would automatically start and cycle between battery and engine+battery.  The engine would never really get hot in this mode, it is essentially being run for waste heat, although surplus energy is still put in the battery.


The Clarity PHEV also has an engine running mode at low temperatures, but it is a little different.  It essentially runs in hybrid mode where it runs the engine much more often, but it still pulls energy from the battery.  Notice in the above image, the blue bar has disappeared from around the edge of the speedometer and the EV text is no longer under the READY indicator.


At other times, the blue indicator is shorter, this happens when your battery is low for sure, and I am uncertain if it happens at any other times.  I think there is a bug in the range calculation when driving in low temperature ERDTT mode since it uses both gasoline and electricity.  I think the range will correct quickly once the battery is low, but given it has some history built in I would expect it to have half this range on the highway.

I haven’t been able to determine exactly what causes ERDTT in the Clarity, but it seems like it is related to battery temperature.  A few days I drove around with temps from 6 to 8 F and it never started, and other days it started at similar temperatures.  With high temperatures around 0 F, it has been running much more often.

I actually prefer how the Clarity does this as the Volt cycles frequently at low temperatures and makes for an odd driving experience.  The Clarity PHEV starts feeling like a normal hybrid and doesn’t have the temperature swings in the climate control that the Volt has in this mode.

I have seen charges limited to 4 kw charge rates in cold weather, slowly increasing sometimes.  I haven’t confirmed if this is the car limiting the charge rate of the cold battery, but I suspect that is the reason.  If I charge after driving the car around for a while it charges at 7.2 kw, but if I plug it in when the battery might be cooler it seems to charge slower than that.  It is possible it is the EVSE, but I don’t think it is.


I have also had more time to use the advanced safety features like the LKAS, ACC, AEB.  I really love the adaptive cruise control.  I know this feature has been on cars for a while, but being my first car with it I have a few comments.  On steep curves, the car might stop seeing the car directly in front of it as the radar starts to point away from it.  Also, make sure a car is registered as being seen or you might get unexpected results from some of the other systems.  The radar won’t detect a stopped car either, so don’t count on it to stop you at a traffic light.  The automatic braking might help there, but best not rely on it.

The LKAS shouldn’t be relied on to keep you 100% in the lane, even with decent lane markings.  Depending on how visible the line markings are, I found it wanted to hug and even slightly cross the lane on my freeway I was testing it on, driving towards the middle of the road.  It did warn me I was crossing the line before I did, but it let me cross 6″ or so before it corrected me back.  It would sort of bounce along the dashed line in this fashion.

This effect might have been in part because solid white lane marker on the edge of the road was under snow and the car was trying to keep me from driving off.  Overall, I think LKAS will be valuable but don’t try to let it drive the car without your attention.  My main complaint with it is you will feel the wheel making small jerky corrections frequently.  They aren’t felt in the car, but through the wheel.

The system also monitors if your hands are on the steering wheel, but I found in the cold with the bumpy roads here it seems to not detect this accurately and I was able to leave my hands off the wheel (in very close proximity) for several minutes.  This let me feel how the lane keeping behaved, but I wasn’t able to see what happens if you don’t use your hands.

The included tires are acceptable on snow and ice.  They won’t compare to a good snow tire, but are respectable for all season tires.  It also helps that they only have 1000 miles on them.  Brisk acceleration will make them slip, especially if surfaces are wet or slick.

When the brake pedal is pressed hard on ice, the car provides no feedback that ABS is being used.  It stops smoothly with minimal pulsating as some systems feedback through the pedal.  The stability control kicks in quickly when the steering angle doesn’t match the direction the car is traveling, quickly reacting to slow the car and allow it to turn as needed.  The Volt always let the car slip to the outside more than I care for before the stability control would engage and correct (meaning you slide into the outside of a roundabout if you don’t slow down yourself).


After having the Clarity PHEV for 3 weeks and 1000 miles, I find that I really like the car.  The comfort level is amazing, the power delivery is good enough that I don’t feel it is lacking for daily driving.  The engine runs less than I thought it would in low temperatures, but more than I thought it would at very low temperatures (less than 10 F).  I am growing to like the car in any mode, but Sport with 4 chevrons of regeneration is my favorite.  I can’t wait for the temperatures to get above freezing, but we aren’t supposed to even see 10 F until next weekend.

I wish Honda included a battery heater in the US model to help efficiency at low temperatures, but overall it drives very well, even in the frigid Midwest.  I have only put 4 gallons of gas in it during the time I have had it.  Not too bad considering the Minivan would have needed 55 gallons!!!


To be fair, I have used about 300 kwh of electricity according to my Charge Point Home 32A charger (I love the smart features of this charger).  This is about $33 worth of electricity plus $10 worth of gas, vs about about $137 worth of gas the minivan would have used over the same period.  It has cut my operating expense by at least 3 times.  I am pleased.


2018 Honda Clarity PHEV – Junk in the Trunk

The Clarity PHEV is no small car, but no minivan either.  However, it still has a large boot that can fit a surprising amount of junk.  I loaded it full without over packing (lots of little nooks and crannies left for smaller items).  I then moved everything over to the Volt without folding the seats down to give an idea of how large the trunk is. As a warning, the Clarity FCV and BEV have much less space in the trunk.

The verdict?  The Clarity holds a lot more in the trunk than the Volt does without going through the rear seats.  Despite the look of the lawn chairs sticking out, the trunk lid still closes cleanly. The Volt is packed up to the back of the seats and could fit everything but the cooler.

How does the pass through compare on the Volt vs the Clarity PHEV?  Let’s examine the Clarity PHEV first (other models do not have the pass through).

It isn’t very large.  The first picture has just the single seat folded and the other has a large pizza box and both seats folded.  The seat levers to release the seats are in the trunk by the hinge, you pull them straight out then pull the seat down.  They can be seen up above in the loaded trunk, the one on the right near the hinge on the inside top of the trunk.  As you can see, this isn’t very large and will be useful for boards, skis, etc.

We all know the huge advantage to hatchbacks is loading large items.  Does that hold true for the Volt?

No doubt, the Volt just barely swallows the 55″ Samsung TV, where the Clarity can’t manage to fit it.  I had to push both front seats forward in the Volt to get it to drop in, but the hatch was able to close.  I left a stroller in the trunk so it is sitting at an angle.

Can the TV fit sideways in the Clarity? Nope, but it comes so close, just 3 or 4 inches narrower and it would just slide in.

Taking a look at the rear seats, we can see just how large this car is in the rear.  With the driver’s seat set for me it has plenty of rear seat legroom.

But with it set all the way forward, the rear seat room is great, especially for installing child seats. Side by side with the seats adjusted back for me (32″ inseam).

A few additional pictures.

2018 Honda Clarity PHEV – Initial Review



I recently purchased my second plug-in vehicle, a 2018 Honda Clarity PHEV Touring, trading in our family minivan.  My  first plug-in is a 2012 Volt that I bought used back in 2014, which I will write about another day.

There are plenty of light reading overviews on the Clarity around the Web, so I figured I would focus more on the drive, why we bought it, what we like and don’t like, and answer any questions you might have.

The Clarity is a large 4 door “midsize” sedan that has 3 different models of EV built on the same platform: Fuel Cell, Battery, and plug-in hybrid.  The fuel cell and battery electric are of little interest to me since they are not available in Iowa and I own the hybrid version so it will be the focus of the review.

With its hybrid powertrain, the Clarity runs primarily on electric power if battery charge is available but will switch to mixed mode if you exceed the threshold of power available from the battery.  Given most conditions it is easy to drive 100% electric for the first 47 miles of EPA rating, but I will discuss in further detail below why this number might not always be accurate.  It also offers a 44/40/42 City/Highway/Combined rating, which is incredibly impressive given the large dimensions of the car.




The Honda Clarity has distinct styling that evokes a love/hate relationship with people. The body covers the rear wheels at the top and it also has functional “speed holes” in front of the rear wheels that serve to improve the aerodynamics of the car, but this makes the car look different than most other cars on the market.

The car uses LED lights for everything, except for the vanity mirrors, which use a 1.4 watt incandescent.  The headlights are all full automatic LED, and the running lights are as well giving a striking appearance from the front.  The turn indicators are nice and bright.  I must say I like how much flexibility LED bulbs give the designers in the appearance of the car.  Remember the old sealed beam halogen bulbs on every car in the 1980s? Even if you don’t like the design, you can’t argue the design isn’t unique and only possible with LED lighting.


The interior color is tied to the body color. White, green, and red come with beige, and silver, grey, and black come with a black interior.  Our silver model with its black interior looks very clean.  Not quite Tesla Model 3 clean, but you can see in photographs that it removes a lot of the clutter and replaces the radio interface with a large touch screen with climate controls down below.  The vents are hidden in the dash folds, and the shift console is elevate above a large storage area. There is no sunroof option at this time, I imagine to help keep costs down on a lower volume vehicle.  The power memory seats tied to individual driver’s keys is also nice.

The car makes ample use of soft touch plastics and nice materials.  Nice for the price class.  The car feels like what you would expect a mid 30’s luxury car to feel. I don’t feel like I am only paying extra for the electric aspect, but instead getting a nice luxury car.

The instrument cluster is targeted towards normal car drivers offering a simple battery gauge on the left, gas gauge on right, speedo in the middle, and a configurable cluster in the center that can show items like range, efficiency, turn by turn directions, etc.  I like this, it isn’t different for the sake of being different or electric.

The car comes standard with Honda Sensing, which is an impressive array of safety features that go as far as adaptive cruise with lane keeping, braking mitigation system, road departure warnings, and other safety features.  It is missing blind spot detection if that is important to you, but offers a blind spot camera on the right side.

So why did we test drive this car?  My wife wanted to replace the minivan with something more efficient, but still had plenty of space for 4 and would even comfortably fit 5 for some longer trips.  It had to have the adaptive cruise with lane keeping, and plug in hybrid was also a requirement.

Getting Started

Initial impressions are everything in many situations, and unfortunately the Honda dealers are not trained to sell this car.  They didn’t have it charged, the dealer knew nothing about it specifically, but was able to help with general Honda controls.  I appreciated the sales person was honest and stated he knew little about it right up front and would only be able to answer questions about the user interface and other Honda specific features.  I highly recommend you call the Honda dealer and ask them to plug it in before you drive it as that makes a large difference.  Like my Volt, it doesn’t drive as nice around town once the battery is depleted.  On the highway it does just fine.  More on that later.

The seats are all very comfortable except the middle back is best suited for kids.  I am 6’1″ but have short legs (32″ inseem) and tall torso (38-39″ to top of head sitting) so need a lot of headroom in a vehicle.  The clarity doesn’t disappoint leaving plenty of space for me in the front and my head just rubbing in the rear, it is better than most vehicles.  The lack of sunroof really helps me in this regard.

Legroom is impressive both front and back.  With the seat adjusted for me in the front, I still had 4″ of legroom sitting comfortably in the rear.  The floating console might bump your knee, so you will want to sit in the car and see if it is a problem for you.  It is not an issue at all for me, although my leg does rest on it at times.  It is rounded on the edge so it isn’t uncomfortable for me.

The lack of shift lever will bother some people, but all the buttons are in logical spots and I found them easy to use.  Instead of sliding the lever, I press the button, and the buttons are laid out in roughly the same order as an automatic.  The one issue is finding a button by feel is a bit more difficult than finding a lever, so I generally glance at the console to select my gear, at least until it is more familiar.


Visibility is fairly good.  The porthole window helps in the back, but the camera is great too.  The front A pillars block the view to some extent as is common on modern cars due to safety constraints, but they are generally positioned to minimize this effect.


Step on the brake and press the start button and the car springs to life.  As with other EVs, absent any engine noise. Press the gear select button, let off the brake and step on the accelerator pedal and you are on your way.  Silently.

Before we talk about acceleration, we need to talk about the hybrid operation of this car.  Think of the accelerator pedal (or “go” pedal) as a request for how much power you want.  The battery can only provide so much power, up to 120 hp.  If you request more power than that with the go pedal, the engine will start to provide up to 180 hp of electrical power (120 from the battery, and 60 hp from the generator on the engine).

That sounds complicated, but thankfully the car makes this easy to understand.  There is dial around the speedometer with a white needle and a blue bar and a green bar (battery charging from regen braking, etc).  If the white needle moves past the end of the blue bar, the car starts.  The blue bar has a dithered region on it where it might be unclear whether the engine will start or not, but that depends on driving mode.


Secondly, there is a detent, or a stopping point that is very noticeable, in the go pedal travel.  If you hit that and push past it until you feel the click in the pedal, the engine will start no matter what.  It isn’t difficult to push past on purpose, but it is also easy to stop before pushing past as it feels like the end of the pedal movement.

On either side of the dash board are efficiency indicator LEDs.  These are green if you are driving carefully and turn white if you are driving aggressively.  They turn red in sports mode.

Next, we need to talk modes.  There are Eco, Normal, Sport, HV, and HV Charge. By default the car will start in normal mode (or eco if it was used when the car was shut off).  Sport or HV/HV Charge mode needs to be selected every drive.  These modes control how the car drives, and in the case of eco, also adjust climate control settings.  Mode selection appears to the left of the speed on the instrument cluster.

Eco mode reduces climate system power, and also makes the car stay in EV mode until you push past the detent in the go pedal.  This mode is saved between starts.  Go pedal mapping seems fairly slugish and climate system might feel a bit weak, but probably the mode you want to drive in if you want the best efficiency.

Sport mode increases gasoline engine utilization for better performance.  It also holds the regen brake setting between stops.  Sport mode and regen setting are reset between power cycles of the car.  This is not really a sporty car, but this will help acceleration.

HV mode is similar to hold mode on some other PHEVs.  It runs in parallel hybrid mode so will run the engine much more.  This will result in maintaining battery charge for later use.  The button can be pressed and held for a couple seconds to enter HV Charge mode, where the engine will run more aggressively when power isn’t needed for moving the vehicle and the extra charge will go to the battery.  This mode is capable of recharging the car to around 60% in an hour. I notice it didn’t add much or any charge on my test drive, I think it is mostly designed to be used on the highway.

Depending on how hard you step on the go pedal, acceleration is anywhere from leisurely to brisk.  If you stomp the pedal to the floor the engine will rev to high RPM and accelerate like a CVT (constant engine RPM), which is always a bit different feeling if you aren’t used to CVTs.  I haven’t conducted instrumented tests, but I imagine it is about the same as the Gen 1 Volt at around 9 seconds to 60, but a bit slower in EV only mode.

Overall, the car is very quiet and refined feeling.  It emits a melodious hum at low speeds to warn pedestrians, which is all but inaudible in the cabin.  When the engine starts at stop lights it produces a small shake and you can feel it rumble to life, but when driving it is nearly imperceptible unless under hard acceleration. I have to look at the energy info screen to tell if the engine is running at times.

Handling.  What do you really expect from a 4000 lb car on energy efficient tires?  It is safe and secure, but nothing really exciting about it.  McPherson strut up front and multilink in the rear.  I honestly haven’t pushed it hard at all.  The rear is definitely more planted feeling while turning on rough roads than some cars with torsion bar in the rear, like the Volt 😉

Braking is also what I would expect.  Pedal feel is a little vague at the beginning, where I assume it is using regen braking before shifting to friction braking. However, I think it might shift a little earlier than the Volt as the charge needle on the dash hits a point and stops fairly early in pedal travel.

I do have a complaint about regen braking.  In all modes and even at the strongest setting, it is too weak.  Less than the Gen 1 Volt provides in L gear selection. I basically don’t use it at all as it doesn’t seem strong enough to make it worth while.  Since the brake pedal blends some in I just go that route instead.

Honda Sensing.  This is one of the main reasons I looked at this particular hybrid.  A requirement for me in my next car was that it have adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane departure warning, and emergency braking.  This takes it a step further and adds low speed follow for traffic jams (down to 0 mph), lane keeping (LKAS), road departure mitigation, but it lacks blind spot detection.  It partially makes up for that by having a camera on the right side of the car that activates when you turn on your right blinker (yes you can turn this off).  It can also be activated by pressing a button on the end of the turn signal stock.

These features work very well.  I was surprised that when ACC and LKAS were activated, the car will actually steer itself as long as you keep your hands on the steering wheel.  It works from 45 to 90 mph and will work on any type of highway as long as lane markings are easily visible.  The driver needs to be alert at all times.  I notice Honda is careful not to overly advertise the self steering aspect of this feature.

I have triggered the brake mitigation system a few times, and I must say I am impressed.  It is important to note that this system is designed to work at mid to low speeds, I think 62 mph and lower.  Also, it is meant to reduce the severity of an accident, not avoid one completely.  However, it will provide warnings and gentle braking reminders early so that the driver can avoid a collision.  It activated for me when a driver in front was turning right, and they slowed down more than I expected and took them longer to clear the roadway.  The car gently braked, but I would have avoided by nudging the car slight to the left out of the path of the car.

I am glad I opted for a vehicle with ACC.  I haven’t tried the low speed follow yet, but overall these systems are quickly becoming standard on modern cars, bit unfortunately some cars don’t even offer all these safety features. I am glad Honda makes the same package standard on both the base and Touring models of the Clarity.

The instrument cluster is the only part I don’t really like.  It is slow to respond to touch inputs, and lacks any sort of direct volume control.  The built in Navigation system (Touring only) is just a Garmin app for the infotainment system.  However, I have always liked Garmin GNSS mapping software.  It offers visible and easy to follow directions.

The saving grace is they don’t force me to use the Honda Apps, and I can use Android Auto (Apple car play is also there).  This allows me to use Google Maps and other Android Auto Apps like my Amazon Music streaming service.  Just plug your phone into the driver side port under the floating console.

I think the infotainment center could warrant its own review.  It takes up a large portion of the manual, offers some customizable controls, has tons of voice features I will probably never make use of and will take a lot longer to learn.

Charging is relatively fast for a PHEV having a 7.2 kwh charger built in, I generally get a full charge after about 2 hours, although temperature and battery condition might change that.  I have defended 3.6 kwh chargers for a long time as being adequate for PHEVs, but after using this one I don’t think I will do so any longer.

I haven’t had enough time with the car to gather range performance in all conditions, but currently in winter I am showing right around 35 miles on a full charge.  This is reasonable given my Gen 1 Volt is getting around 25 in similar driving. Heaters in electric cars always draw significant power in cold weather, as well as Li-ion batteries aren’t as efficient at low temperatures. I fully expect to easily exceed the 47 mile range in warm weather without climate control active.


Comparing the car to the Volt and a few things stand out. This car is a much bigger car, over a foot longer and far more interior space and rear seat room make the Clarity PHEV a much better choice as a people hauler (for more than 2 people).  The Volt offers a slightly sportier EV only drive and also provides more information about vehicle efficiency to the driver, offering MPGe ratings, etc.  The Honda was clearly designed to just be driven and not to make the driver think about the details.

The other vehicle I considered was the Pacifica Hybrid model, but honestly I was trying to get away from a van as my 3 kids are getting older and I don’t need the extra space.  The Pacifica Hybrid now starts at about $40k for a base model, but it is high 40s to get the safety equipment that is standard in the Honda for $10k less.

The car is a very refined and modern plug in hybrid electric vehicle.  It offers a comfortable ride with the latest safety and convenience features.  Ample trunk and interior space make it a great purchase for a family or for hauling coworkers since it easily seats 5 people. The all electric 47 mile EPA combined range combined with over 40 mpg on gas make this an incredibly efficient and low operational cost car.

I have been very pleased with my purchase of the car, and look forward to driving it for many years. It checked the boxes I wanted in a car, space for 5 with some storage, ability to drive many EV only miles, and good gas efficiency as well.  This vehicle will be driven 15 to 20k miles a year, so efficiency was important to me.



2017 Li-ion EV Fleet Capacity (USA)



Here is a view of the amount of installed battery capacity in the 2017 automotive fleet (only looking at new cars sold in the USA this year).  These numbers were estimated based on sales of the car model and the average reported size of that battery.  For example, the Bolt EV was the number of Bolt EV sales times 60 KWh (actual capacity might be closer to 64 KWh, but only advertised was used).  For Tesla I am doing a simple average of max and min battery sizes available, so 87.5 kwh for Model S/X and 75 kwh for Model 3 (only that model is available now). This model could be improved, but is okay for rough estimation.

Looking at the share by type of install (BEV vs PHEV) and we can see that approximately 86% of the capacity is being installed in BEVs, and most of that goes in Tesla cars.

2017_fleet_capacity_share.png I look at this a couple ways.  If you are hitting a Lithium-ion battery cell shortage, you could make a larger impact by making more PHEVs instead of BEVs, as 5 to 10 PHEVs could be made for each Tesla.  This could be researched to see if it would have a larger impact on CO2 emissions than driving a BEV.  For example, if a Tesla drives 15k miles per year, but instead you could make 10 PHEVs that drive 5k EV miles a year they would amount to 50k miles fewer on gas vs the 1 Tesla driving 15k EV miles. This is only a concern when battery supply is limited.

Another way to look at this graph is it shows the percentage of the market held by Tesla.  For sales volume of BEV only, it is about 40%, but for total battery capacity, it is over half of all plug in vehicles sold for 2017.  This is unlikely to change in the next year with the Model 3 starting mass production, and will likely skew even more to Tesla.

The total GWh capacity of the fleet is 6.55 GWh.  Tesla is aiming for 35 GWh of production at Gigafactory 1 (  In other words, over 5 times the current 2017 US fleet.

Car sales figures were taken year to date from, I have no affiliation with that site.