Honda on Thursday began selling a new fuel cell sedan and touted its unprecedented range for a zero-emission vehicle.
The Clarity Fuel Cell is also the world's first five-passenger sedan to be powered by a fuel cell, which burns hydrogen gas to generate electricity and leaves only water vapor as exhaust.
The Japanese automaker said that its more compact fuel cell powertrain fits entirely under the hood of the car while increasing its efficiency. The Clarity's cruising range of more than 460 miles is 30 percent higher than previous incarnations and the best among zero-emission vehicles worldwide.
Honda officials said that the system is both powerful and quiet, and that its tank can be refilled with hydrogen in about three minutes. In addition, an external device could enable the car to serve as a mobile generator in the event of a disaster or other power outage.
Initial sales — with a target of about 200 cars in the first year — will take place in Japan exclusively through leases to government agencies and partner businesses.
Honda subsequently plans to increase production and will begin sales in the U.S. and Europe later this year.
Despite their obvious environmental benefits, fuel cell vehicles have struggled to take off due to a lack of available fueling stations. Japan, however, placed an emphasis on building a "hydrogen society" and plans to install hundreds of hydrogen pumps in coming years.
The Clarity will initially sell for $67,000, but government subsidies are expected to reduce the final cost of leasing the vehicles. Honda officials said that leases will be available for less than $500 per month when they go on sale in California.