My ear said the Clarity test car’s compressor whine was too obvious. Honda pledged to exorcise the noise before handing over the cars to consumers. On the other hand, cooling for the Clarity’s cache of lithium-ion batteries was silent—the opposite of the Equinox. The electric power steering was a bit touchy, but Honda seemed unconvinced that any correction was needed.
Honda says the four-passenger sedan will hit 60 miles per hour from a dead stop in just nine seconds. I found it lazier off the line than those numbers suggest. But I was surprised at how eager it seemed in mid-range speeds where most driving is done and where the compressor’s whine was minimal.
I also tested the Clarity’s handling on the twisting canyon roads northwest of Los Angeles and found the car to be agile and able to easily stay in its lane through corners. It wasn’t a sporting vehicle, though: for one thing, the low-rolling-resistance tires didn’t grip as well as conventional rubber would have. And that sensitive steering required frequent, small corrections. The average driver probably will be more interested in how well the car saves fuel, however.
In the end, the driving personalities of the two test vehicles, with a few exceptions, were close enough to those of ordinary gasoline-powered cars that if buyers ultimately reject fuel-cell machines, it won’t be because the cars seem unfamiliar from behind the wheel.
Note: This story was originally published with the title, "Fuel-Cell Cars".