Honda Begins Limited U.S. Distribution Of Hydrogen Car, Clarity

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A strong position at the forefront of the automotive industry is nothing new for Honda. But the Japanese manufacturer has added to its innovative legacy with the debut of its zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell car.

The FCX Clarity runs on hydrogen and electricity, emits only water and none of the gases believed to induce global warming. Honda began transporting the first supply of the vehicle June 16 from Takanezawa, Japan to Los Angeles.

A few dozen of perhaps 200 of the vehicles expected to be available in coming months have created a buzz among Hollywood celebrities, according to the Associated Press. The news service reported actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Harris, filmmaker Christopher Guest and Ron Yerxa and businessmen Job Spallino and Jim Salomon are among the Clarity’s first customers.

Honda believes its new car is two times more energy efficient than a gas-electric hybrid and three times that of a standard gasoline-powered car.

In California, a three-year lease for the FCX Clarity will run $600 a month, which includes maintenance and collision coverage.

The biggest challenge for fuel cell vehicles is the cost and availabilty of hydrogen fuel stations. For the Clarity’s release in California, Honda said it received 50,000 applications through its Web site but considered only buyers living near hydrogen fuel stations in Torrance, Santa Monica and Irvine.

The Clarity will go only to a chosen customers in  July and then launch in Japan this fall.

Although Honda Motor Co. (HMC) was the first Japanese automaker to launch a gas-electric hybrid vehicle in the U.S. in 1999, it has been outpaced by the dominance of Toyota’s (TM) popular Prius.

Toyota announced in May that it has sold more than 1 million Prius hybrids, while both the Honda Insight and the hybrid Accord have been discontinued due to poor sales.

The FCX Clarity is part of Honda’s plan to keep pace with rivals in green technology. It also plans to launch a gas-electric hybrid-only model, as well as hybrid versions of the Civic, the sporty CR-Z and Fit subcompact.

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