Story & photos by Randy S. Peregrino
EVEN before the Tokyo Motor Show 2017 media convention, Honda already provided us a better understanding on the company’s “2030 Vision.” Honda R&D Asia Pacific Co. Ltd. President Hideo Komura shared their foresight as a response to global rapid change in the business environment. “While looking ahead to the future and taking action to face challenges, our aim and vision is to serve people worldwide with the joy of expanding their life potential, and lead efforts to realize a carbon-free society toward a clean society,” he said.
The Japanese automaker is really serious and determined to meet one of their ultimate goals for 2030—to achieve two-thirds unit sales of electric vehicles globally. Honda R&D Co. Ltd. Large Project Leader Kiyoshi Shimizu also shared his insight. “In order to top the current environmental issue, Honda will accelerate various future environment-friendly technologies and also expand the current hybrid models sales globally,” he explained. He then revealed to the entire media group that the activity for the day was for us to experience Honda’s ultimate zero-emission sedan—the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell (FCV). Likewise, to test its latest variant fitted with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain.
Truth be told, the Clarity FCV is the world’s first marketed full-electric motor sedan. Impressively, it holds the highest driving range of approximately 750 kilometers. Its electric AC synchronous motor alone generates 170 horsepower and a hefty 300 N-m of maximum torque. The PHEV model, on the other hand, offers all-electric range plus long distance capability. Based on Sport Hybrid i-MMD, its two-motor plug-in hybrid has an increased battery capacity and longer driving range compared to the conventional ones. Interestingly, the powertrain offers an all-electric motor feel and quietness. Combining the 1.5 liter engine and electric motor, the PHEV variant generates 180 hp with a massive 315 N-m of maximum torque.
Held at the well-known Twin Ring Motegi Circuit, we finally got to see the Clarity premium sedan up close. At a glance, the modern front-end design signature is very much evident. But what makes this sedan different from its cosegment Accord is the oblique roofline that diminishes the trunk. Apart from the sharp profiles on the flanks, it has this unique rear wheel arc shape that covers the upper portion of the tire partially. Once you get inside, everything is luxurious from the innovative cockpit layout, elevated center console to the comfy seats wrapped in premium materials.
Since the activity was about assessing the electrified powertrains, we got to try out the FCV version first. After pressing the ignition button, panel lights are the only things that went alive—absolutely no sound or any mechanical movements. It even became more engaging the moment we started moving in a cruising speed. The acceleration was so smooth that only muffled tire echoes were the sound heard. At the stretch, it delivered a quick spurt to reach higher speeds and again, minus any vibrations at all.
Next was the PHEV version and the only difference was the feel of the engine firing up during start-up. As we further progressed, the electric motor became more evident by eliminating engine vibrations and exhibited almost an all-electric motor feel. Acceleration was also impressive and quick to respond as you further press the pedal. Both models demonstrated soft and quiet ride with good steering feedbacks on every curve. After the test drives, everyone was treated with a shotgun ride experience onboard the FCV version race car. Here, we further validated the electric motor’s ability to dish out powerful accelerations with superb control, while attacking curves at high speeds. The race-car experience left us convinced that electric motors are, in fact, as steadfast as internal combustion engines on motorsports applications.
Meanwhile, there were also other hybrid models available for testing, such as Grace (City), Fit (Jazz), Absolute (Odyssey) and Freed. With the three being available in the country—except for the powertrain—curiosity turned our attention to the mini MPV Freed. Seeing the model for the first time, you could easily describe it as a taller Fit (Jazz). But once inside is where you’ll see more of its reduced minivan interior layout. To begin with, the rear doors are sliding; as for the benches, the first and second rows are fitted with captain seats (sliding second row seats). The third row, on the other hand, can be folded to make room for extra cargo. Even the dashboard layout and the absence of center console convey a constricted Odyssey cabin.
With the growing number of motorist leaning more toward compact and subcompact segments, this could be a great option for those into minivans boarding few passengers to go around the Metro. We can only hope that Honda would consider bringing in the Freed here with a good pricing scheme to make it relatively affordable.