Why I Am Buying the Honda Clarity PHEV Instead of a Full Electric Vehicle

After moving to southern California in June of 2018, it became clear that the miles I was driving meant that it was increasingly uncomfortable to spend a lot of time in the white, 2013 Toyota Prius Persona I was driving. This car was one my 100,000+ air miles per year wife was driving up until a couple of years ago, so even after driving out here from Minnesota, the car has just over 32,000 miles on it!

As a not-so-small guy, the Prius was “just OK” as far as comfort was concerned, but not for long distances. Since we’re installing solar — and I did really want to go fully electric with a car — a plugin hybrid vehicle (PHEV) could be an option.

At least a PHEV would work where I live since the distances in California are so vast (just driving up to see our kids in Los Angeles is 59 miles in one direction) that I knew I would need and want range. Especially since electric vehicle (EV) chargers here are almost always full with a waiting line as well so charging for an hour or two is a challenge.

Add to that the “local” trips we have planned:

  • Palm Springs: We have a friend there and at least six or more times per year we’ll be driving out there and it’s 105 miles each way plus driving locally. That means a full charge is needed before driving home.
  • Steve’s Road Trips: I have over 30 spots picked out for my photography hobby, and at least half of them would be in areas without EV chargers close by. Not impossible, just terribly inconvenient and time consuming to charge-up.
  • L.A. Trips: Seeing our son in Santa Monica and daughter in L.A. means driving that 59 miles in one direction. In summer with the heat and air conditioning on in an EV vehicle — and driving around L.A. for a day or two — a 258 mile (or lower) EV range means again, charging is a necessity and L.A. area EV chargers are tough to get and the queues are long.

But to make certain I explored the three vehicles I was interested in buying next, my wife and I drove these three:

  1. Hyundai Kona EV: I loved this small SUV and had a grin on my face the entire time we were driving it. Still, the 258 mile range was limiting.
    • Sticker price for the Ultimate (leather seats; etc.) = $45,500 with no negotiating due to demand.
    • Federal tax rebate = $7,500
    • Effective car cost = $38,000 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)
  2. Tesla Model 3: To keep the cost of a Model 3 EV down and in the same ballpark with the Hyundai Kona EV, I was looking at the Standard Range Plus with 240 miles of EV range. Again, having this car would not meet our needs due to limited range, need to charge, and so on.
    • Sticker price for the Standard Range Plus, in white, 19″ wheels, with RWD = $43,000
    • Federal tax rebate = $3,750 (lower since Tesla has used-up their full $7,500 rebate quota)
    • Effective car cost = $39,250 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)
  3. Honda Clarity EV: This is the car. It is SO much more comfortable than either the Kona or Tesla. We opted for the Touring trim (better sound system; leather seats; etc.). Though the EV range is only 47 miles, that will cover our day-to-day driving. For longer trips the Clarity’s Hybrid Mode — where the battery augments the gas use for longer trips with EPA rating of 110MPGe — means we’ll have 90% of our use on electric, and the rest with excellent gas mileage (when the battery is depleted, the combined city/highway MPG = 42).
    • Sticker price for the Touring trim = $37,520
    • My price after Honda discount = $30,861
    • Federal tax rebate = $7,500
    • Effective car cost = $23,361 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)

Though I’d rather have a full EV (especially since we can charge up using solar when it’s installed next month) the limited range doesn’t make sense for my use, especially here in southern California. Plus the car just feels and looks great. It’s comfortable and the ride is fabulous. Oh … and it has Apple CarPlay which I have wanted in a car for some time.

There are compromises I’ll make with this car (it’s not an SUV or even a hatchback; wood look and faux suede on the dash is offputting; I’d rather not have the fender ‘skirt’) but those are small quibbles. The overall size, ride, comfort (for both front seat and rear seat passengers) make this the perfect next car for us.

Interested in learning more about the Honda Clarity? Check out this short video from Kelley Blue Book’s review:

Kelley Blue Book also gave the car it’s 2019 Best Buy award:

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