Recorded February 13, 2018
Bernadette Sanicola: Top three things, I would say that it’s the space in the car. The interior space can literally fit, if you were moving, this person could help you because it’s split folding seats. And just easy accessibility to it. Second thing would have to be the range. The car regenerated itself impressively, and I came back and returned the car with actually some miles on it, some range. And the third thing I would say about it would be the technology. I think it’s pretty futuristic. It connected Apple CarPlay right away. It had all the features, all technology features that you want as far as almost autonomous driving.
Tom Smith: Welcome iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of these fine United States of America – Southern California. I’m Tom Smith and in this episode, we are introducing a new contributor, a new team member of iDriveSoCal and that is our good friend Bernadette Sanicola. Say hello, Bernadette.
Bernadette: Hello. Thanks for having me, Tom.
Tom: Thanks for being with us. Bernadette and I have known each other for probably a decade, quite honestly, and she is a huge car gal. Southern California native, pit reporter for American Le Mans and NASCAR, and television and radio, and we’re lucky to have her and thank you for joining us. Today we’re going to be talking about the 2018 Honda Clarity that you test drive.
Bernadette: Yeah, plug in Hybrid.
Tom: From our good friends over at Rock Honda.
Bernadette: Great dealership.
Tom: So tell us about the drive.
Bernadette: Well, the car was interesting. It was good. Most electric cars I’ve driven, I jump in and take off from wherever I am and the range, and the electric range goes down immediately and I end up just running on gas the whole time. But this car was impressive. It actually has a huge range which is 340 miles. And I didn’t lose all electric range even when I returned the car. I still had the power to…
Tom: So did the gas motor kick on at all?
Bernadette: It did, no, absolutely, it did. Yeah, I wanted it to take on for the drive reasons and for the acceleration, but the car was pretty seamless. Like if you don’t… I know, Tom, you said you don’t know much in this segment. And honestly if somebody just wants to get in and go in an electric car, this is the car for them.
Tom: And it’s a plug in hybrid, so that means really you don’t…range anxiety is a nonfactor because you can always have gas in the engine and then that will always regenerate your batteries, correct?
Bernadette: Exactly. It’s a seven gallon gas tank so between you know 47 miles, we have an all-electric drive plus the gas, you get about 340 total range. And with that, you can recharge the battery as you go so if your battery starts to get low, kick it over into a different mode, driving mode and it starts to regenerate and charge your battery up. This car was pretty seamless; it was pretty sophisticated.
Tom: So where did you take it? What kind of driving did you do?
Bernadette: Well, being on the 210 freeway, I went down to visit the fam and my dad at Outdoor Elegance.
Tom: Ding, ding, ding. Hello, Doug and Sharon Sanicola at Outdoor Elegance. Bernadette’s parents own Outdoor Elegance Patio Design Center right out there on Laverne off Foothill Boulevard, the Foothill exit and good friends of ours. So for all of your patio furnishing and barbecue island and barbecue pit needs, got to Outdoor Elegance and say hi to Dough and Sharon for us.
Bernadette: We’ll make sure to take care of you, especially if you subscribe to the podcast. He liked the car. He saw the car. He liked the space in it and he made this Italian dad comment on the trunk space.
Tom: Oh, of course, sure.
Bernadette: Some Robert De Niro type comment but you know he liked the car, and I drove it from there and kind of went up through the Laverne to see how it could really do uphill because that’s a big factor with electric cars. And the car was really good. It felt like a regular car. It honestly did not feel like a hybrid at all. And from what I’ve experienced with hybrids and all the annoyances that you experience with hybrids as far as when the engines switch over, the driving mode you have to pick, how you save your range. It’s kind of like you don’t have to think about it.
Tom: I haven’t driven a lot of hybrids. Do you feel, as a driver, with most hybrids, do you feel that switch over from electricity to…
Bernadette: Absolutely, I think you do. And I think I mean especially when they’re the gas engines. I mean this is a seven gallon gas engine. So it’s 1.5 liter, 4 cylinder inline-four. So it’s got a little more kick than some of the other guys, but it still acts as like a generator. So what you’re doing is regenerating that power back into the electric motor. So when you do that, sometimes the car you can hear it turn on. Some of the cars sound like an annoyance unless you’re going straight uphill, which I kind of tried to do in this car, you really don’t see the car struggle. You don’t see the difference in the drive which was nice because some people just don’t want to learn all that stuff. You know, the three different driving modes are there. You have the all-electric mode, which you can get up to 47 miles which is a lot more than most hybrids.
Tom: Meaning range.
Bernadette: Just on the electric. And then you have a power save, like a battery save, which is in HD mode. And then you have a sport mode. I love the sport mode, but the sport mode is just more acceleration, more engaging response when you throttle in the engine, but the car really won’t let you. You can put it in complete electric or not electric mode. If kind of wants to do the work for you. So unless you’re slamming on that throttle and pushing through the threshold to get to the engine, the car’s going to do what is best. Which I found was good.
Tom: And is that always consistent where the transition from electricity to gas is or does it just depend on what kind of strain you’re putting on the car whether you’re going uphill, downhill, what have you?
Bernadette: All those factors matter, topography, how you use the throttle. Like if you gun it and you’re used to just gunning it, not you know warming up your battery, then what it does is it will decide for you and then engine will engage. But for the most part, the cars want to be in electric drive. They want to be operating that way. So you’ll see your electric power go down before the gas even knows about it.
Tom: Now, the plug in component of this. You hear about hybrids and, Oh it’s “plug-in hybrid.” What does that mean?
Bernadette: That means you can go to all the public charging stations you see out there. But you can really literally plug the car into a wall socket in your house. You don’t have to have an electrician come out. I can pull the car into my garage right now and if I plug it into the wall, it just starts charging the car.
Tom: Now what I’ve heard that or I’ve read that if you plug it into a regular wall socket, yes, you can do that, but it takes forever.
Bernadette: Give yourself 12 hours, yeah.
Tom: Whereas if you have the, I guess…
Bernadette: 240 volt the fast charger, yeah.
Tom: Okay, then it’s a completely different story.
Bernadette: Yeah. And those can be… I mean a lot of car companies sell them, but I know Home Depot makes a great pitch for getting either a wall unit or getting a fast charger or having someone come out look at your house. But everybody has 240 volts in their house. If you have a washer and dryer and you unplug that and plug the car in, there’s your two and a half hour charge. So as long as that washer is not going along you know on an extension cord with this. But there’s ways you can get around the whole charging thing. Plus there’s fast charging and there’s public charging. And most public charging is inexpensive. You can top off the car where you go. Sometimes I think they’re the best spots, parking spots in L.A. I hit them all and there’s always electric charging spots open. My bank has like 15 of them and I have to park and walk past empty parking spots. It makes me crazy. But there’s a lot of really cool incentives to having one of these cars. And if it’s not just for the parking, I swear, like anywhere you go.
Tom: So cool incentives, are we talking about stickers, highway stickers, HOV lanes.
Bernadette: Absolutely. This is one of the cars that qualify. Some hybrids out there don’t but if you have enough of zero tailpipe emissions, which the Clarity does qualify for, you can get a carpooling sticker and you also get the $75 uninjured federal incentive rebate.
Tom: Now how would that work? I’m at Rock Honda, I buy the clarity, I get to slap a sticker on there at the dealership? Doe the dealership have those stickers for me?
Bernadette: So what you do is once you purchase the car and go through your paperwork, the DMV is notified. You send them $6 I think it is. It’s pretty inexpensive and they send you back the sticker. The sticker stays with the car so once the car is registered once, it’s good. So if you were to buy a CPO or you know a used car that has a sticker on it, then it should still be valid for that car.
Tom: And then when I reregister my car each year is there a premium because I have that sticker?
Bernadette: I think there’s a small DMV fee, but like I said, it’s somewhere in the $6 range.
Tom: Now are those stickers that I see on the bumpers different colors for a particular reason for different codings?
Bernadette: Yeah there’s limited availability. They used to have the white. You see mostly the green HEV but they all have to do a tailpipe emissions. So somebody might have an electric car or a hybrid car that it doesn’t have enough in the tailpipe emissions for it to qualify. Most of your electric hybrids are on the fence.
Tom: We’re packing a lot of information into the Honda Clarity here. We arguably could have had two different podcasts, one just about the rules and regs and stickers and whatnot and the different kinds of hybrid. And thank you for all the expertise. That’s why you’re here and thank you so much. We appreciate it. So the vehicle, the styling, the inside and out, tell me about what it looks like, what it feels like in and out.
Bernadette: Some really cool features that I love like the air breathers on it, which I haven’t seen Honda do, where you literally can track it through and over the tires and see how the car is trying to be aerodynamic and give it a better drive, a lower center of gravity.
Tom: So an air breather means like a vent that is on the bumper in the front and then that air and then that channels the air over the wheel and it just kind of…
Bernadette: Yes and keep the car kind of pulled to the ground.
Tom: Okay and that’s kind of a racing thing.
Bernadette: It’s a sporty thing. It’s something that I think that someone that is looking for something sporty but wants to be practical and you know lives in L.A., how far you go, would look for. The grille is aggressive too. It looks very sporty. It didn’t look like an Accord but once inside, it kind of felt like a Honda Accord, which is a great car.
Tom: Okay, and trim levels.
Bernadette: Well, I drove the Touring, which is the upgraded version. There’s only two. Under the Honda Clarity name, they have three different cars. They have the all-electric which is only available in California and Oregon. They have hydrogen fuel cell. And those are limited availability and will be released, as far as I read, will be released more in the U.S. but right now or just select states, and then this one which is the plug in hybrid, which is all across sea to shining sea. So the U.S. this will be the most popular one…
Tom: Sea to shining sea.
Bernadette: Sea to shining sea. It works. But no, it’s the one that Honda is really pushing for a mass market attraction to, and it has the best range and has the best numbers as far as MPGE and all that.
Tom: And what are we talking MPG?
Bernadette: MPGE is 110.
Bernadette: E which means Miles Per Gallon Equivalent.
Tom: Miles Per Gallon…okay.
Bernadette: Most people think it means miles per gallon electric, but equivalent is what it actually means, which is trying to tell you what the cars’…like the way you would look at MPG as in per gallon but mileage you get. So it uses off–and I won’t go into this because it’ll be a whole other podcast—but kilowatt hours of charging. and how much electricity…
Tom: Wen we see a billboard, we’re boogying down the highway, we see a billboard and it’s got a car and it says this miles per gallon, in those terms, what does this guy get?
Bernadette: You want to stay in the 110 plus, 120. I mean it’s kind of on a lower for MPGE but most people because they don’t understand what that means, most advertisers are using range, 340 range.
Tom: So what is the gas mileage of this Clarity?
Tom: Forty-two MPG. And then MPGE…
Bernadette: And with a 7-gallon gas tank so it’s a…
Tom: Okay, so then in theory, you got a 7-gallon gas tank, 42 miles a gallon. You got 280 miles there plus you have the electric motor even for another 47 plus electric motor is going to regenerate while you’re driving, right? So in theory, your total range on this could be quite long.
Bernadette: Yeah, 340 miles. And I got further. When I got into the car today, it had 419. So it all depends on where you drive and how you drive. The car wants to give you a read out assuming you’re going to blow the air conditioning at max and be going uphill because it’s the worst thing to get in the car and have it lie to you.
Tom: So creature comforts inside and the various trim levels, is it leather throughout? Is it leather in only specific trims or what are we looking at?
Bernadette: Well, there’s only two. The Touring was the upgraded one. It was really actually nice. It stepped it up a little bit. It has an alcantara type feel to the suede headliner and door panels. It had a you know a wood inline like trim to it, a little bit of a futuristic look. You know the electronic shifter was pushbutton. I have a picture of this because it’s going to be weird describe but it literally you push the drive button. But a lot of USB ports, accessibility was great, the connectivity was great. And to me, it was really nice. Even the steering wheel was leather, leather steering wheel, leather seats or leatherette. And it felt even better than you know my drive car. I really liked it.
Tom: So as I always do with The Professor, top three things.
Bernadette: Top three things, I would say that it’s the space in the car. The interior space can literally fit, if you were moving, this person could help you because it’s split folding seats, its trunk, the accessibility, the light weight of it. This is a cool car…
Tom: So split folding seats meaning the back seats go down. You extend the trunk space.
Bernadette: And just easy accessibility to it because the car is still light. Second thing would have to be the range. I mean I like I said, I have range anxiety. I get in a car, and I gun it on that gas pedal, and it just goes down. And I have no electric left, but the car regenerated itself impressively, and I came back and returned the car with actually some miles, some range. And the third thing I would say about it would be the technology. I think it’s pretty futuristic. It connected Apple CarPlay right away. It had all the features, all technology features that you want as far as almost autonomous driving. It can stay in the lanes, active stop and go. I know I’m going into terms…
Tom: No, no, no that’s cool.
Bernadette: But like these are things that you know where you literally can be on the freeway in traffic, which we are all the time, and the car can stay in its lanes. It can do the brake and accelerator for you and decide the distance that you want to keep between the car in front of you.
Tom: This is a great inaugural voyage, maiden voyage with our good friend, Bernadette Sanicola. Thank you so much for that test drive review on the Honda Clarity, the 2018 Honda Clarity from our good friends over at… 2018 Honda Clarity plug in hybrid…
Bernadette: You got it.
Tom: …from our good friends over at Rock Honda. Go to Rock Honda, see David Latif, the general manager, very accessible, very great guy. Bernadette, thank you so much. Very much appreciate your participation and welcome to the team. For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. As always, thanks for listening.