Honda and Volvo add more electrification

Honda announced it’s going to expand its Clarity line to include an all-electric version and a plug-in hybrid next year. The latest version of the Honda Clarity will be available later this year any way you want it, as along as you want a fuel-cell vehicle. The other two variants will be ready in 2017.

Honda’s goal is to have electrified vehicles, including plug-in hybrids and fuel cells, account for two-thirds of its total sales by 2030. Right now, you can buy a Honda Fit EV or an Accord Hybrid, so adding two more models nearly doubles Honda’s electrified offerings, to be Pollyanna-ish about it.

Keep in mind that all three Clarity versions are still niche vehicles. Fuel-cell vehicles are pretty much restricted to southern California, where there’s infrastructure to support the new technology. All-electric vehicles have a bit more reach, as many metro areas in the United States are expanding charging infrastructure, but that change is slow in coming. Plug-in hybrids have the most potential for reaching the heartland, as there’s a regular gasoline engine to fall back on after a few miles of all-electric travel. Errands and short commutes can be completed almost entirely on electric power in most plug-in hybrids, but if you live in Montana or Kansas, you’re going to be glad you have a gasoline engine on board.

On the same day, Volvo announced it will have two hybrid versions of every vehicle in its fleet, and it will release its first fully electric vehicle in 2019. In the press release, company president Hakan Samuelsson said, “Volvo wants to be at the forefront of this shift to electrification.” Given that so many other manufacturers already have at least one hybrid model, if not several, on the road, and there are a dozen or more electric vehicles a person could choose from right now in 2016, that “forefront” ship has already sailed.

Volvo is not known for moving quickly and providing a lot of flash, though, so it’s not out of corporate character to spend years preparing for a change this huge. They’ve created two vehicle architectures — one large, one small — that can be fitted with either a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric powertrain. The first vehicle to get the electrification treatment is the XC90 T8 Twin Engine SUV, which will be available soon, with the S90 full-size sedan to follow. Volvo’s goal is to have 1 million electrified vehicles on the road by 2025 — the same year the company hopes to be climate neutral.