Production Starts for Fuel-Cell Powered 2009 Honda FCX Clarity

For followers of Honda‘s fuel-cell powered FCX Clarity, June 16, 2008 marks a significant milestone: the start of full-scale production.

The first FCX Clarity rolled off its production line today at Honda’s Research & Development plant in Kanekanzawa, adjacent to Honda’s Research & Development facility in Tochigi, Japan. Although a dedicated assembly line for the FCX Clarity has been established in the plant, the cars will largely be hand-assembled in small numbers; no more than 200 are slated to be built in the first three years.

Although Honda’s engineered the fuel cell stack to operate in -30 degrees centigrade temperatures, deliveries in North America are limited to Southern California. Honda witnessed widespread interest in the FCX Clarity across the U.S, but a limited hydrogen fueling infrastructure meant only those living near Los Angeles had a chance of receiving a car.

A list of the first five customers for the FCX Clarity reads like a “Who’s Who” of Hollywood. Film producer Ron Yerxa will receive the first FCX in July, while the other four (including actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Harris) will receive their cars shortly afterward.

Honda claims the lease program for the FCX Clarity is the world’s first retail initiative for fuel-cell vehicles. Lease terms for the FCX Clarity run for 36 months and should cost customers nearly $600 per month. Considering that payment includes free maintenance and collision insurance (to say nothing of the car’s value, rumored to be in the billions of dollars), that’s a bargain. Still, customers should expect to foot the bill for their own liability coverage and fuel costs (roughly half the cost of gasoline).