Honda (HMC - Get Report) , on the heels of its goal of electrifying most of its fleet by 2030, added two new models to its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle line, all of which will be sold under the Clarity name. 

The new models will be a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and a battery electric, both of which Honda said will debut in 2017. The Clarity fuel cell vehicle is slated to go on sale in California this year on a limited basis, pending development of a hydrogen fuel infrastructure. 

The PHEV's electric-only range will be about 40 miles, the same as the first-generation Chevrolet Volt, after which a small gasoline motor will engage to charge the battery and extend the vehicle's range to about 300 miles. All three models will offer additional choices to environmentally minded consumers and should pose solid competition to models like Tesla's (TSLA - Get Report) battery-powered Model 3, Nissan's (NSANY) Leaf and General Motors'  (GM - Get Report) battery-powered Chevrolet Bolt, as well as to Toyota's (TM - Get Report) Prius. 

"The Honda Clarity Series will provide customers with a well-equipped, premium, mid-size vehicle with range of ultra low-carbon powertrain options to suit their lifestyle needs," said John Mendel, Honda's executive vice president in the U.S. 

Last June, Honda said it was dropping its natural-gas powered Civic and concentrating on electrification as a means of meeting tightening global standards for emissions and fuel-efficiency. In February, new Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo announced that by 2030 two-thirds of the company's vehicle output will be made up of fuel cells, plug-ins or battery-powered cars. 

The initial three Clarity models will be built in Japan on the same mid-size, five-passenger vehicle architecture. By naming the three new models Clarity, Honda is resorting to a similar marketing strategy as its rival, Toyota. Toyota achieved success by creating the Prius name and sub-brand as a way to denote fuel efficiency achieved with cutting edge technology. 

Mendel said the Clarity PHEV will be the "volume leader" of the three. 

Honda shares have struggled in the past year, losing 26% of their value in the past year compared to an 11.7% drop in the Nikkei 225 index of large company Japanese stocks. The automaker has been grappling with a massive recall after reports of defective airbags manufactured by Takata, which have deployed improperly for the past several years, injuring and killing occupants of Honda automobiles. 

The PHEV will be available in all 50 states, while the fuel cell will be available in California only.

Air Liquide is working with Toyota to create a hydrogen infrastructure in the northeast U.S. Mendel said that Honda's long-term vision is that hydrogen fuel cells will be the solution for meeting government clean-air and fuel efficiency standards, a belief that Toyota shares.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doron Levin is the host of "In the Driver Seat," broadcast on SiriusXM Insight 121, Saturday at noon, encore Sunday at 9 a.m.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.