In the Middle in Size, But Low in Range
In 2003, a small startup in Silicon Valley called Tesla Motors announced to the world that it would build an electric car with more than 200 miles of range. Five years later, they proved it could be done with the right resources and the right people (and a body produced by Lotus).
Eight years after that, Chevrolet proved that 200 miles of electric range was possible, at haft the Tesla’s $70,000 (or higher) price tag.
Over the past 10 years, both of these manufacturers showed us that long-range battery technology is no longer relegated to science fiction and visions of the future; that both luxury and economy cars could be environmentally friendly and usable every day.
So why then, you might ask, did Honda recently announce that its new Clarity EV would have an electric range of only 80 miles; one of the lowest all-electric ranges on the market.
That figure puts the Clarity EV well behind the almost all of its competitors, and directly conflicts with the manufacturer’s reputation for innovation.
Price Big Factor
According to Honda, one major factor for the low range was price. When asked about this decision, Vice President of Environmental Business Development at American Honda Motor, Steve Center, had a very clear answer.
“A pillar of the Honda brand is affordability, and if Honda came out with some obscenely priced long-range electric car, what does that do for the brand?” Center told Automotive News. “Most of our customers would not be able to acquire it.”
Price was not the only consideration, however, and Honda is confident that its new Clarity EV will follow its current Clarity Fuel Cell in filling a market gap currently uninhabited by any other brand. Honda will also field a plug-in hybrid variant of the Clarity.
The Market Metrics
Chevrolet’s Bolt is affordable and long-range, but small. Tesla’s Model S and X are large and long-range, but costly. The Tesla Model 3 will be less costly and long-range, but also small. And the second-generation Nissan Leaf is expected to be small and inexpensive, but still modest in range (though substantially longer than the Clarity).
With these considerations, and a target category in mind, Honda didn’t really leave itself any leeway to fit a longer range battery; which would be heavier, costlier and take the Clarity EV into a different segment. So their goal is to be a midsize, inexpensive, but short-range electric car.
Prices for the Clarity EV are expected to start at around $35,000 (before tax credits or incentives), which would indeed make it somewhat cheaper than most of its competitors. Whether or not the limited range will prove to be detrimental to the sales of the Clarity EV remains to be seen.
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