What you see is the 2008 Honda FCX Clarity, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. This isn't the econo-box that was Honda's first generation; this is a full luxury version . . . this thing has ALL the bells and whistles of any luxury car on the market, but runs on ZERO gasoline. And the only thing that comes out of the tailpipe is water (I have the first car in the world designed to pee). The car of the future is here, my friends, and it's wrapped around me whenever I drive.
I'm sure that, over time, I'll be posting a lot about the new car, including photos (to be honest, I have to make sure I don't post anything proprietary, per Honda's wishes). For now, I'm going to post the answers to the four most frequent questions I've had in the last week:
1) How did you get one of these? (Usually asked, "How did YOU get one of these?") Honda's trying to put 200 of these on the road over the next three years (mine, I'm told, is one of the first ten--Jaime Lee Curtis has one, so I'm in a pretty nifty club), and their website asks interested people who live near one of the fueling stations to sign up. I did. Frankly, it's one of those things that you fill out and you know they're never gonna call--but they did. I've been speaking with them since November, and we got everything worked out. Despite what certain reviewers are saying, they're not just handing these things over to celebrities; they are, however, screening the potential lessees pretty carefully. Anyway, my answer to this question is, "I raised my hand, and they called on me."
2) Is it hard to drive? Is it hard to refuel? In both cases, no. I've never had a luxury car before, so I'm going from a stripped-down 2000 Hyundai hatchback to this. Driving a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle--basically, an electric car--means becoming accustomed to the acceleration, the gauges, and the mechanics of starting the car, but it's not all that different. I think that's the point, actually: to make the cars cleaner without changing the way we drive them. As far as refueling the car is concerned, it's actually easier to fuel with hydrogen than it is with gasoline. Once you know what you're doing (a simple 30 minutes of training), and once you've done it a few times, it becomes . . . well, kinda boring, actually. But that's better than needing a 50-page manual each time.
3) Is it expensive? Um . . . yes. Yes it is. Here's the thing, though: with the $600 per month lease, I'm getting all maintenance AND the comprehensive and collision insurance included (I just need to pay for the liability insurance and the hydrogen). That being the case, it's not really all that different from leasing any other big-ticket luxury car. On top of that, I get to drive around in a "limited edition" kind of car, and I'm not polluting anything while I do it. As far as the hydrogen itself is concerned, you have to learn the math of driving all over again (what with the new fuel type, the conversion of numbers isn't always easy--or possible). Let's put it this way: it costs me the same to fill this car's tank as it did to fill my last car's tank. So again, there's not a whole lot of change here.
4) Are you going to let your son drive it? Look, my almost-17-year-old son doesn't even have his license yet, and doesn't take the test until next week. I love my son, I trust my son, and I'm glad I sent my son to an expensive driving school--but unless there's a federal bailout package specifically for my liability policy, I don't see him driving it anytime soon (one of the guys from Honda--I'm looking at you, Tim--suggested that I let him take the test in my Clarity, for crying out loud). Actually, my son doesn't have his eye so much on my new car as he does my OLD car. He has dreams of co-opting that one. We'll see.
If I get questions, I'll answer them (if I'm allowed to, of course). In the meantime, if you need me, I'll be in my car.