2005 Honda Clarity Review

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Even before I walked out to the driveway, a small contingent of neighbors had already gathered outside the house trying to figure out what to make of the curious little vehicle sitting in my driveway.

There’s no question the Honda FCX is an odd looking duck, the sort of tall and quirky hatchback you’ll find in the Japanese domestic market. It looks like a couple feet of sheetmetal have been sawed off the back, but that wasn’t the reason folks had come to check it out. The real draw? The words stenciled all over the little three-door: hydrogen power. The FCX makes claim to being the first “production” fuel-cell vehicle.

FCVs are frequently in the news these days, but it’s not often you find one parked in little Pleasant Ridge, Michigan. Actually, you’re likely to find only a few dozen fuel-cell vehicles anywhere in the U.S., most in California, where they’re participating in a pilot program to test out what many believe will be the technology of tomorrow.

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In an unexpected and pleasant surprise, TheCarConnection.com was given the opportunity to test out Honda’s FCX, and not for an hour or so on a carefully chosen test track, but for a full three days — or until the hydrogen storage tanks ran out, whichever came first. There’s no hydrogen pump up the street at our corner Sunoco station. Run dry, I was firmly advised, and I’d be sitting on the site of the road until I could arrange for a flatbed.

Keying up the future?

With that in mind, I slipped the key in the ignition, then stuck my fingers in my ears. Over the last five years, I’ve gotten behind the wheel of more than a dozen prototype FCVs, and almost without exception, the most notable first impression was the whine of the air pumps used to feed the fuel-cell stack. Imagine standing about five feet away from an air-raid siren and you’ll get the idea.

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