I bought a 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid and loved the pep the electric motor gave when you pushed down the accelerator. I did not like the lack of room in its trunk. After almost 7 years, the Accord Hybrid's NiMH battery pack died (although it was just barely still covered by a warranty). My habit of many short drives was not good for the NiMH battery, so I traded it in for a 2013 Accord with a V6 engine that actually got better gas mileage than the older hybrid. But ever since, I have been looking for another hybrid vehicle.

I was looking at an Audi E-Tron (but nary a single one ever reached the Southeast USA), a Kia Niro, and the new Accord Hybrid. After discovering that the Accord was not yet available, and the Audi was still not available, I tried the Kia Niro and bought it. But I had buyer's remorse, and returned it the next day. I really loved the electronics package in the Niro as well as the sport back. But the Niro has three fundamental flaws for me.

  1. It is very noisy. What good is a premium HiFi system if you cannot hear it? 
  2. It is underpowered, in spite of just middling gas mileage
  3. The blind spot indicator is on the top outside edge of the right-hand mirror. My neck is fused, and I cannot see it. In my opinion, this is an awful place to put the indicator.

My Honda dealer called me last week to come and look at the Accord Hybrid, which had finally arrived. It is a very nice car, but it has the same issue with the blind-spot indicator that the Niro had. The salesman mentioned that the Clarity they also just gotten in used the same right-side TV camera that my 2013 Accord used, so I gave it a drive also. Guess what? It drives just like the new Accord, it is just as peppy as the new Accord, and it is quieter than the new Accord. And I could see the right side of the car on the center display console.


This screen turns on when you activate the right turn signal, or you can turn it on ay will by depressing a button on the end of the turn signal stalk. Notice the car-length indicator marks that let you judge the distance of following cars. It seems to me that this is far superior to a blinking light you cannot see without taking your eyes off the road.

Compared to the new Accord Hybrid, I gave up some features to get the Clarity

  • There is no sun roof
  • No lumbar adjustment for the driver (but the seats on the Clarity are comfortable)
  • No deluxe Hi Fi system (even in the Touring trim, which I got)
  • A slightly smaller (1.1 cu ft) trunk
  • No left-side blind-spot warning (the Clarity has a bend in the side-view mirror to increase its field of view).

But, the Clarity has its own goodies:

  • It is the same size as the Accord, but heavier, with a lower center of gravity (due to the battery). It should be more stable in winds than the Accord, and much more stable than the Prius, for example.
  • It is quieter than the Accord. On an asphalt road at 70 mph, it is dead quiet. Concrete pavement is noisier.
  • I think it is prettier and "edgier" than the Accord.
  • It of course can go 47 miles on just battery power and recharge overnight on 110 volt 15 amp power.
  • To save weight, the hood and some body panels are aluminum.
  • The side glass and the expansive windshield are acoustic laminations.
  • It has a place to put a box of Kleenex
  • It qualities for a $7500 tax credit. So, with my trade-in, and with purchasing 7 years of all repair coverage, it cost below $15,000.

But there are a few things about the Clarity they do not tell you:

  • Auto insurance costs almost twice as much as for the Accord, probably due to the complicated exterior that costs more to repair. My old Accord was rated at 39. The Clarity is 59, even though the cars cost the same! When my insurance agent entered the VIN, my car came up as a Fuel Cell Clarity. Clearly this was wrong. But today, after a call to the President's office, the insurance rating, and the rate dropped from $1600 to $1135, and I added full replacement coverage which I did not have on my old car.
  • There is no jack. Of course, there is no spare tire either!...

So here are some pictures of my new Clarity

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The brakes on the Clarity seem to need a lot of cooling, possibly due to the regenerative action. In the above wheel image, the gray part is a plastic insert that reduces drag and directs airflow into the wheel. There is also a functional scoop in front of each wheel to do the same thing.

Finally (and compared to the Accord), there is a place for a box of tissues:


But that flat shelf between the tissues and the shift buttons hits my knee if I do not push the seats farther back than I would like. Is there something inside it? The angular corner is especially painful.

Today I drove to get a haircut and to the market completely on electric power and in relaxing silence (due to the insulation, not the motor, which is also quiet, except at high speeds). I plugged it back in when I got home.


You can see the battery is charged fully because the green light, which is to the left of the electric plug, is off.

The Clarity has all the latest safety features. It has adaptive cruise control that maintains a follow distance rather than a speed. It jogs your hands if you wander out of your lane without turning on the turn signal. It will stop if there is an obstacle in front of the vehicle. It makes noise at low speeds to warn pedestrians that a care is coming. I mentioned the side-view camera already, but there is also a rear-view camera—a necessity for my fused neck.

Safety Cameras
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One other feature is worth mentioning, although I have not yet fully grokked it. There are what look like two paddle shifters on either side of the center of the steering wheel. But they are not shifters. Instead, they seem to act like hand-operated brakes that put all kinetic energy back into the battery instead of dissipating some as heat in the brakes. If you see a red light ahead. click the - (left) paddle, and you will slow down. I am not sure what the + paddle does yet.

When I washed the car, I discovered the obsessiveness that Honda exhibits when it comes to aerodynamics. There are active vents on the body sides just ahead of the rear wheels, that funnel air into the wheel cavity. But I also discovered that the rear of the wheel well is shaped to make the air flow towards the center of the body.

shaped wheel well

Today I drove 54 miles (round trip) from my house to the UT Medical Center, and the gas engine did not kick on until I reached my home block. And i was doing 65–70 mph on the Interstate with the air conditioner on. I am amazed.

Yesterday I drove to Rugby TN and back, which finally gave me a chance to test the car's manners on a long drive where the battery meter got down to 2 bars, which kicks the motor in. The car behaved perfectly, even when stuck in stop and go traffic on the Interstate in 93-degree weather. Unlike the claims in Consumer Reports, the gas motor is NOT noisy unless you stomp on the gas. I could not tell any noise difference in normal driving when the motor was or was not engaged. The Clarity is designed to keep the battery at 2 bars in Economy mode. and I continued to get assists from the electric engine, or to run on it alone.

Not so great things...

The windshield wipers are strange in two ways: They are very fast in widow-cleaning mode. They sit in the parked position and suddenly do a very fast swipe, and sit again in the parked position. And the washing fluid comes out of the wipers rather than spraying on the window. As a result, the wipers are totally ineffective at removing bug splats. The solution is not on the glass long enough to do anything.

There is a real safety issue because of the slow response of the display screen system. When you put on the right turn signal, there is often (usually) a 1-s delay before the right-side TV camera appears. This is much too long in a heavy traffic situation when you need to quickly dodge between cars. The TV screen appeared instantaneously on my 2013 Accord. The solution is to leave the camera on all the time, but this is not a good solution if you are using the navigation system. The backup camera has a similar lag backing out of the garage into the sun. It takes a few seconds to reset the exposure, so one must halt for that time in order to see backwards again. If you do not wait until the instrument panel says "Ready to drive," the info/entertainment system does strange things. For example, the rear camera stayed on, and the XM screen was non-responsive. Thus far, when I wait, things seem to be OK.

The fuel gauge is also not very fast. After I add gasoline, the gauge does not seem to register this until I restart the car. But I have thus far gone home after my refills, so the gauge may reset itself earlier.  Even worse, the Range indicator is useless.
I took my car to the dealer today, and after waiting until Honda opened in California, I got the official Honda response: "We are aware of this issue and have it under investigation. So far we know it's an error in the calculation process. We're fixing the range calculation software and will be releasing a new software version." But when I switched Dealers, the Range fix got installed, as were the missing body plugs. The range is now about 350 miles.

How much money do you save on fuel?

The PHEV Clarity uses a 17 kWh battery. Electricity costs about 10.5 cents/kWh for me, so to fill the battery the whole way would cost $1.78. But in fact, My clarity never lets the battery get below 2 bars (out of 20) on the gauge, so the electricity I use costs about $1.60/charge. This is good for 50 miles in Economy mode, so the cost per mile is about 3.2 cents. Gasoline is now about $3.60 a gallon. I have mostly driven on battery only, so i do not have my own gasoline mpg figures. Honda quotes 44 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. If I use 42 mpg, this yields 11.6 cents per mile.

Consumer Reports also said that the Clarity's range is just a little over 300 miles. That is false. On a full charge, and a full tank of gas, the Range indicator says 395 miles. Even after my 150-mile drive yesterday, the Range said 321 miles. You should have no range anxiety issues with a Clarity. I have seen the Range indicator indicate over 400 miles.

CR also dinged the Clarity for its unusual shifting controls. Each shift position has a unique button, and after a week or so, you can shift by feel. The fly-by-wire controls allow that nice storage space below the center console. It is an advantage, not a liability.

Further discoveries

The 2018 Clarity comes with 2017 Navigation maps, which you need to update. My dealer claimed that I get 5 free updates, and hope that this one does not count. He also said that it had to be done by the Service Department, but this is not true. Go to http://honda.garmin.com/honda/#getstarted and follow the instructions.  You will need a 64 GB (or larger) USB stick and a computer. It is a four-step process: You install the computer software and format the USB stick in FAT. Then you plug it in on the Clarity and it receives the necessary information about your car. On your computer, the Garmin app will now recognize your USB stick as a new device and download the software to your USB drive. Finally, you take the drive to the car and install the software. The updates take several hours, and the engine must be on during the car processes. While discussing the navigation system, for some reason the volume of the navigation prompts is not in the Navigation settings; it is buried somewhere in the car settings.

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