Honda FCX Clarity.Honda FCX Clarity.Photo courtesy of the New York International Auto Show.Is the Honda FCX Clarity really the world’s greenest car? According to the world’s leading automotive journalists, it is. Thursday morning they gave the hydrogen-fueled Clarity the World Green Car award at the New York auto show.

But at my table, after the award was announced, there was a collective response of, huh?

Auto show awards can often serve more for PR purposes than as actual testaments of a vehicle’s merit, but it was still a surprise when the hydrogen-fueled Clarity bested the electric Mitsubishi iMiev and the super fuel-efficient Toyota iQ.  The award is not without merit; the Clarity is a zero tailpipe emissions vehicle. But considering the fossil-fuel intensive process required just to bring hydrogen to a car, the fuel is far from “green.”

With the exception of the award for Honda, hydrogen cut a low profile in New York auto show. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles were on display, but they were significantly underplayed in comparison to the showy displays of Dodge Circuit EV or even the electric Mini.  A Newsweek-sponsored panel on automotives of the future played lip service to hydrogen, but emphasized the promise of plug-ins and EVs.  Similarly, the keynote speaker, Volkswagen USA president Stefan Jacoby, outlined everything but hydrogen — such as the efficiency of the clean diesel engine, hybrid technology, and second generation biofuels.  Only when pressed by a questioner did Jacoby acknowledge that hydrogen is one of the myriad alternatives automakers are researching.

So as hydrogen’s star fades, why would journalists want to reinforce it by celebrating the Honda FCX Clarity? Were the auto show judges in question — bloggers and MSM writers — really off the mark?

To be considered for the 2009 World Green Car award, the vehicle needed to be introduced for sales somewhere in the world during 2008 and feature all new significantly revised technology.  For more info, visit the World Car of the Year Awards website.