New contributor Ray Fong reviews his new 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid over the course of 3,800 miles and 8 states. Is this the future of road trips?

Story and photos by Ray Fong

Starting in 2019, California will only allow Red PHEV stickers in the carpool lane. The sticker itself will be valid for 3 years. We fell in love with PHEVs with the purchase of our 2013 Chevrolet Volt. It offered a nice range, sipped fuel and provided my wife carpool lane access for her 40-mile commute to South Orange County. With the Volt reaching 100k miles and with the green HOV stickers expiring in January, we opted to find a replacement PHEV. Ultimately, we decided on the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV).

The Upside

There was a few criteria that we needed in addition to the HOV lanes. A big one was space. I’m 6’3 and my 15 year old son is now 6’4, my 12 year old is 5’5 and my wife is 5’7. Leg room was really important. The Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is so practical for a family vehicle and it makes so much sense for us. The interior is comfortable and we appreciate the leg space for the front and rear passengers.

Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid and boundless plains

The car charges on our 240V plug in just 2.5 hrs and will take us about 47 miles on electricity. The tank uses regular unleaded and takes only 7 gallons to fill, which gest us about 280 miles on gas alone.

The features on the base model are plentiful, making it a great deal. The features we use the most include Auto Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Touch Screen with Android Auto/ Apple Car, and backup camera. The practicality of the car was far greater than my opinion on the aesthetics and it has surpassed our minivan for king of practicality in this household.

The Trip

Road trip route – 8 states, 3800 miles – a great test for the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Each summer, we have a need to travel and this year we decided that the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid would be the ideal road trip car.

It was comfortable, saved fuel and this was the perfect opportunity to really get to know our new car. This year we decided that after a Las Vegas basketball tournament for my son, we would make the trip to see Mt. Rushmore, Denver and sites along the way. The trip was estimated to be about 3,000 miles with the added stops, we actually ended up driving 3,800 miles.

We ended up going from Vegas to Salt Lake City, to Gillette WY to see if we can find have a Close Encounter with some aliens at Devils Tower National Monument, went to visit the Presidents at Mt Rushmore in South Dakota, saw Bison, Prairie Dogs and a Cave at Wind Cave National Park, saw some amazing scenery at Badlands National Park SD, drove through Nebraska to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument and Scotts Bluff National Monument, spent a few days enjoying what Colorado had to offer.

This included handmade ice cream at Little Man Ice Cream, renting some tubes and floating down the river in Golden. We also checked out some awesome book stores in Boulder.

We then headed off for a trip to Santa Fe NM and drove off the next day to Flagstaff AZ and then back home.

An Owner’s Perspective

After taking the car on a 3800 mile road trip, I really got to know the car and I found a few quirks that could easily be solved. The biggest issue I found was that the cluster displays a range that your vehicle can go. That sounds great until you realize that it’s based on an average that also includes your charging time. I haven’t figured out the formula, but it does not equate to the amount of fuel in your tank. This was the biggest irk when trying to figure out where to get gas and when driving in the middle of nowhere, I highly recommend fueling up when your gauge is at about half way.

Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid MID

Another suggestion from an owner’s perspective is that it would be nice for the oil change notice  to coincide with the mileage that the gas engine has driven, not the overall combined mileage. On my Volt, we averaged once a year oil change, but Honda is unable to track detailed mileage. The lane keep assist was useful on a long drive, but it did get confused if an exit lane split off. What I found really beneficial was the Adaptive Cruise Control. This was an ankle saver on such a long road trip and it handled braking and speed quite well.

I also recommend to keep some electricity in the car and put it into HV mode. This mode will use a combination of electric power and gas power. Once the car is out of electricity, it very easily runs to redline. The sound at redline isn’t as pleasing to hear as in a S2000.

One more change I would like to see is the ability to program charge times based on the time of the day as well as day of the week. We are on Edison’s night and weekend plan, making it cheaper to charge in the evenings and weekends. Currently the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid only allows you to schedule a time based on the time of the day only.

Clarity with Data

I kept a log book on the total mile, fuel consumed and the amount of fuel we paid for. Overall the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid was driven 3828 miles. We averaged a MPG of 41.55 which included four full electric charges. The fuel for the trip cost us $283.07. I was really excited to see these numbers. This data really reinforced my beliefs that this was the perfect vehicle for our annual road trip. Perhaps fuel-sipping cars will be the future of road trips for generations to come.

Overall we are very happy with the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid. We would recommend it for anyone looking for a PHEV that is practical, fuel efficient and HOV compliant.

For more information on the Honda Clarity, visit Honda’s website.