Nearly 15 years ago, I drove a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) for the first time. It was a Honda FCX-V4, the first FCEV certified for commercial use anywhere in the world, and I was smitten. With plenty of torque, a futuristic whir, and nothing but water vapor coming out of the exhaust outlet, it was like driving the future.
Today, where I live in California, FCEVs are increasingly common. The Golden State actively subsidizes the construction of a network of hydrogen fueling stations, and three different car companies are selling FCEVs in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento areas.
One of those models is the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, a descendant of the FCX-V4 and subsequent FCX Clarity. The Clarity Fuel Cell is Honda’s first widely available FCEV and is quite popular in my region of L.A.
2019 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Highlights:
- Lease only, with 20,000 miles of driving annually
- $379 per month with $2,878 due at signing
- $5,000 California rebate
- 174 horsepower and 221 lb-ft torque
- 360 miles of driving range
- $15,000 in free hydrogen fuel
- Refuels in 3-5 minutes using a 70MPa hydrogen station
- 21 days of free luxury car rentals through Avis
- Available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento
- 101.5 cu-ft of passenger volume
- 11.8 cu-ft of trunk volume
Honda isn’t the only car company making FCEVs. For 2019, Hyundai replaced its Tucson Fuel Cell with the all-new Nexo. A crossover SUV, the Nexo is an impressive FCEV.
2019 Hyundai Nexo Highlights:
- Available for purchase or lease in Blue and Limited trim
- Blue trim level costs $58,300
- Limited trim level costs $61,800
- Lease starts at $399 per month with $2,999 due at signing, offers only 12,000 miles of driving per year
- $5,000 California rebate
- 161 horsepower and 291 lb-ft of torque
- 380 miles of range (354 miles with Limited trim)
- $13,000 in free hydrogen fuel during the first three years
- Refuels in 5 minutes or less using a 70MPa hydrogen station
- 21 days of free car rentals
- Available in Los Angeles and San Jose
- 101.3 cu-ft of passenger volume
- 29.6 cu-ft trunk, expanding to 56.5 cu-ft with rear seat folded down
RELATED CONTENT: Hyundai Nexo Review
If you’re a big fan of FCEVs like I am, you might be wondering which of these vehicles is the best. That’s what we’re here to find out.
2019 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Price and Configurations
Honda will not sell you a Clarity Fuel Cell. Instead, you can lease it. Walk into a dealership that offers the car, write a check for $2,878, and pay $379 per month for 36 months. Honda generously throws in $15,000 worth of free hydrogen fuel, as well as 21 days of luxury-class rental cars through Avis and 24-hour roadside assistance during the entire lease term.
Available in a single level of specification, the Clarity Fuel Cell is offered in white, black, or burgundy paint colors. If you’d rather have the Platinum Gray interior instead of Black, get burgundy paint. Highlights from the standard equipment list include:
- Leather seats, heated in front
- Dual-zone automatic climate control
- Premium sound system
- 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- HondaLink connected services
- Navigation with hydrogen fueling station locator
- Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)
Honda offers a short list of dealer-installed options for the Clarity Fuel Cell, including a set of reverse parking sensors priced at more than $500.
2019 Hyundai Nexo Price and Configurations
Hyundai offers the Nexo in two trim levels. The standard version is called Blue ($58,300) and the uplevel version is called Limited ($61,800). The Nexo Blue matches, and often beats, the Clarity Fuel Cell in terms of standard equipment.
Choose the Nexo Limited, and your FCEV adds the following features, none of which are available for the Clarity Fuel Cell:
- 19-inch aluminum wheels
- Roof rails
- Power tailgate
- Power sunroof
- Heated steering wheel
- Ventilated front seats
- Krell premium audio system
- Blind View Monitor system
- Surround View Monitor system
- Remote Smart Parking Assist, which is a fully autonomous parking function that works while you stand outside of the vehicle
When you choose the Nexo Limited, the estimated driving range falls from 380 miles to 354 miles. This is due to the Limited’s larger wheels and tires as well as the additional weight and power draw of the extra equipment. Hyundai dealers do not offer any extra-cost accessories for this vehicle.
The Best Things About the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
Based on an analysis of Honda Clarity Fuel Cell prices, capabilities, features, and specifications, these are the best things about the car in comparison to the Hyundai Nexo:
- Lease-only, with a more affordable deal than the Hyundai, one that allows 8,000 more miles to drive during each year of the lease
- Includes $15,000 in free fuel, which is $2,000 more than the Hyundai
- Free rental car plan offers luxury-grade rather than standard-grade vehicle replacement
- More horsepower, but less torque
- Greater hip, shoulder, and front-seat legroom than the Hyundai
- Available at more dealers in more areas of California than is the Hyundai
The Best Things About the Hyundai Nexo
Now it’s the Hyundai’s turn. Based on an analysis of Nexo prices, capabilities, features, and specifications, these are the best things about the crossover in comparison to the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell:
- Styling that looks good, no excuses
- You can buy or lease the Hyundai Nexo
- Standard trim offers 380 miles of range, 20 miles more than the Honda
- More torque, but less horsepower
- Crossover SUV packaging provides much larger cargo space, with 29.6 cubic feet behind the back seat, more than double the Honda
- Fold the Nexo’s back seat down, and it offers 56.5 cu-ft of cargo room
- More rear-seat legroom and greater front and rear headroom than the Honda
- Larger 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are more sophisticated
- Limited trim level offers numerous exclusive features unavailable on the Honda
- Blind View Monitor is like the Honda’s LaneWatch, but works on both sides of the vehicle. Plus, the Nexo also has a traditional blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert
Honda Clarity Fuel Cell vs. Hyundai Nexo. Which is Better?
No doubt, there is a strong value proposition associated with a Honda Clarity Fuel Cell lease, and the car is more widely available than the Hyundai Nexo. However, from its styling and crossover SUV packaging to its superior equipment levels and undeniable utility, the Hyundai Nexo is the better of these two FCEVs and sets the bar in the segment.
RELATED CONTENT: How to Refuel a Hydrogen Car