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San Diego Living

It’s electric – Our new car, the Honda Clarity

We did a thing. 

Last night, Kristen and I brought home an electric car. Compared to our 13 year old minivan with 220,000 miles on it this car might as well be a spaceship.

A Two-Car Family

In 20 years of marriage we’ve only had two cars for very brief interludes. Once we drove a missionary couples pickup while they were away for a few months. And when we’ve changed cars we sometimes had an overlap of a few weeks. But other than that we’ve moved from newlyweds without a car to having a single car.

But, even though Kristen and I both work at home it’s gotten to the point where the five of us simply can’t manage our day-to-day stuff with just one car. We’ve resorted to renting cars on busy weekends and using Uber / Lyft quite a bit. As a family of five we stretched the one car thing about as far as we could before we finally broke.

It was time so we made it happen.

Why Electric?

In some ways we’re stereotypical Californians. We grow organic veggies, we raise chickens, we care about immigration reform, funding public education, the environment, we like hiking and going to the beach. We’re not truly granola but we’re definitely on the spectrum. In many other ways we’re not stereotypical Californians, too. I’d say I’m more of a conservationist than an environmentalist. I think a lot of the gardening stuff I do is more about responsible resource management than rejecting corporate farms and their over-mechanicalization of the farming industry.

With that as context, we didn’t set out to get an electric vehicle (EV) for any sort of altruistic reasons. The one we ultimately took home, the Honda Clarity, was the only one we test drove.

The more we thought about it the more we realized we are perfect for this kind of car, especially this kind of deal on this kind of car. While we set out to get a small, cheap, fuel-efficient car that would take the pressure off of our aging Toyota Sienna. Though Jackson’s elementary school is within walking distance our two high schoolers go to school 10 miles away in downtown San Diego. Dropping them off and picking them up accounts for 40 miles round trip per day. All told we drive about 50 miles a day or 18,000 miles a year.

Of course, we still have our van. So that’s 18,000 miles per year between two cars– one old and one new.

About the Deal

As I mentioned before we weren’t in the market for an EV. We just came across this deal while test driving other Honda’s and the deal was worthy of consideration. Once we weighed all the factors we decided the positives outweighed the negatives.

Here’s the details: (which are publicly advertised)

  • $899 down
  • $199/month
  • 36 month lease
  • 20,000 miles per year
  • $2500 rebate from the State of California
  • Net of $183/month

What’s the catch?

There are a few catches to this offer because essentially Honda is using Clarity Electric drivers as guinea pigs while they figure out their place in the electric market. It’s a $38,000 car for less of a lease than, say, the Honda Fit and only slightly more than leasing their workhorse Civic.

  1. It’s a closed end lease meaning there’s no option to buy it at the end of the lease.
  2. You agree to let the car be monitored by Honda meaning all of the data of what we do with the car are shared with the company. And you know what? That’s fine with us. In 3 years we might be able to go back to having just one car and we think it’s pretty fun to be a guinea pig. 
  3. There aren’t any options allowed on the car. But that’s fine with us because they are fully loaded with every single option and upgrade already included!

About the actual car

Obviously, it’s only been one day. That said it’s a really, really nice car. Our minivan is a base model from 13 years ago. It has nice features and we love the van… but this is a serious step up in technology and comfort.

Technical things I like…

I like love how this car drives. It’s super quiet and yet pretty powerful. You hit the throttle and it goes. I like that it has Apple’s Car Play built in. I like the Eco feature which allows your coasting and braking to charge the battery. On my drive this morning this meant I started and finished that leg with a net 0% of battery used. I like all the safety features… of which there are a lot. I like the giant screen, not quite as big as the one on the Tesla but pretty big compared to other cars we drove. And I like that each key fob has store seat and mirror settings so when I get in the car or Kristen gets in the car it adjusts to our preferences.

Technical things I don’t like…

I like the idea of all-electric but actually charging it is going to suck. There are a bunch of charging stations near us but most aren’t available to the public. This means that we’re getting a Level 2 charger installed at home. That’s cool and a pain at the same time. Along the same lines the battery life on the Clarity is sub-par for an electric at only 89 miles per charge. (150-200 is now considered standard) It’s fine for us since we don’t drive that much but for other people that’s a total deal breaker. I asked the sales guy what was holding people back. He said everyone loves the actual car but the range is just too little. I like all the stuff the screen does and the Honda Link app that goes with the car but it all feels just a bit too “beta-y.”

More to come

Obviously, we just brought the thing home last night so we’ve got rose-colored glasses about it. It’s the first time we drove a new car off the lot since 1998 so that’s exciting.

I look forward to updating my likes and dislikes more when we get some miles on it. But for now… we’re celebrating having two cars and not burning $60 gas a week taking kids to school.

Are you a Honda Clarity Electric Owner?

Check out this owners group on Facebook.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

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