• Jan 3, 2011
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Cross Country Blue Drive – Click above for image gallery

You've got to hand it to Wayne Gerdes. He knows how to go the distance in production passenger cars on very little gasoline. In April of 2009, he worked with a team to go 1,445 miles in a Ford Fusion Hybrid on a single tank of gas*. In June of 2010, he went 1,065 miles in a non-hybrid 2011 Hyundai Sonata. His most recent trip was in a Sonata Hybrid, which he drove 2,269.3 miles from San Diego, CA to Jekyll Island, GA on less than two tanks of fuel – a claimed average of 59.58 miles per gallon.

That's mighty impressive, but for those of us who have been following Gerdes' recent hypermiling drives, the obvious question is, why was he able to get 66.285 mpg in the regular, gas-powered non-turbo Sonata when the hybrid "only" got 59.59 mpg? (and Fusion Hybrid managed 81.5 mpg.) In part, this can be explained because the trip in the regular Sonata took place in the summer from Chicago to New York, while the hybrid ride was a winter time trek through the mountains – and it was over twice the distance.

In any case, Gerdes has once again showed that it's quite possible to handily beat the fuel efficiency ratings on a car's window sticker. In this case, the EPA thinks you will get 40 mpg on the highway, but clearly a lot is left on the table for those whose sole goal is to eke out every last drop of gas.

Just as importantly, we're not sure if Gerdes and his compatriots employed some of the more radical and dangerous hypermiling staples (drafting semi trucks for lower drag, etc.), but we've got a call in to Wayne to learn more about his techniques. In any case, a short video of the Sonata's mpg display after the first tank is available after the jump.

*UPDATE: Autoblog has been reminded by a reader that in contrast to the Sonata Hybrid's transcontinental drive over the mountains in the winter, Gerdes' 1,445-mile run in the Ford Fusion Hybrid was conducted in spring at a lower average speed,and the vehicle was essentially driven in a large circle for more than 69 straight hours, beginning in Mount Vernon, Va and finishing in Washington D.C. In short, none of these drives or their resultant fuel economy findings are true apples-to-apples comparisons, and in order to draw a conclusion about which hybrid achieves the best mileage, these vehicles will need to be tested side-by-side under identical conditions. As always, your mileage may vary.

[Source: Hyundai]

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Hypermiler Wayne Gerdes drives 2011 Sonata Hybrid 2000+ miles from Pacific Ocean to Atlantic Ocean averaging 59.58 miles per gallon

· Route from San Diego to Jekyll Island, Georgia – 2269.3 miles
· On public roads and interstates over mountains and through inclement weather
· First tank of fuel 1221.2 miles
· Second leg of trip 1048.1 miles with 2.5 gallons remaining
· EPA rates Sonata Hybrid at 40 mpg on the highway for a range of nearly 700 miles
· Demonstrates fuel-efficient driving can extend impressive range of Sonata Hybrid

JEKYLL ISLAND, Georgia, Jan. 2, 2011 – An all-new 2011 Sonata Hybrid completed a drive from the edge of the Pacific Ocean to this island off the Atlantic Coast of Georgia, covering 2,269 miles crossing over mountains, deserts and valleys, the Continental Divide and the Mississippi River, with only one stop for fuel, demonstrating the range and fuel efficiency of Hyundai's new hybrid sedan, which goes on sale this month.

Professional driver Wayne Gerdes, the man who coined the term "hypermiling" to describe techniques used by driving enthusiasts to maximize fuel efficiency in cars, began his journey in San Diego on December 26, 2010 and celebrated New Years Day in Georgia using only 38 gallons of fuel to cross the continent.

"As a fan of fuel-efficient vehicles, I enjoy the challenge of putting new technology to the test," says Gerdes. "This demonstration shows how the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid can deliver extremely impressive fuel economy and range for drivers who value fuel savings. This is the first time I've driven a car that 'does it right!' Driving on the interstate at the posted speed limit (or 65 mph, whichever is slower), the Sonata Hybrid will exceed or equal its competition while offering a much larger, roomier, and comfortable car."

Hybrids have been driven long distances previously in staged demonstrations aimed at amassing miles on the odometer. In this challenge, Gerdes drove alone in the Sonata Hybrid and crossed the continental United States from point-to-point, not in a controlled loop, but in real-world conditions in the cold of winter.

"While the drive was bit more extreme than we expect most owners to undertake, this demonstration underscores the range and efficiency of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid," says Hyundai Motor America president and CEO, John Krafcik.

"Sonata delivered some incredible results for us in 2010. This drive was a great way to kick off 2011 when we begin retail sales of the Sonata Hybrid."

Three Versions of the 2011 Sonata

The 2011 Sonata Hybrid is the third of the Sonata family, which includes the conventionally powered 2.4-liter gasoline direct injection model, with the first-ever 35-mpg highway rating for a non-hybrid, a remarkable 33-mpg highway rating for 2.0T (which packs 274 horsepower, more than any V6 in the segment), a best-ever 40-mpg highway rating for the breakthrough Sonata Hybrid featuring industry-first lithium-polymer battery technology.

At a time in which new technology powertrains have captured headlines, if not sales success, Hyundai's Sonata Hybrid makes its debut with production now underway and sales to begin in January. Its 35-mpg city, 40-mpg highway EPA rating achieves a new level of highway fuel economy for a mid-size sedan, consistent with North American driving habits (which average more than 50% of their driving mileage on highways).

Hyundai is taking an innovative approach offering the first hybrid using lithium-polymer batteries and a 6-speed transmission. Keeping with Hyundai's simplified approach to product packaging, the Sonata Hybrid comes in just two models from the factory – the very well-equipped Sonata Hybrid at $25,795, and the incredibly well-equipped, tech-feature-packed Premium version at $30,795.

"Sonata Hybrid offers something new to the mid-size sedan segment, with its segment-leading 40-mpg highway fuel economy rating, differentiated appearance, and incredible value," says Krafcik. "Our three Sonata powertrains demonstrate Hyundai's unique approach melding innovative technologies and emotional design into products more and more people want to put in their driveways."

This is not Gerdes' first time producing impressive fuel economy results in a Sonata. Last summer, he drove a 2011 2.4 L GDI Sonata from Chicago to New York City on less than one tank of gas.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yet driving across the country for no reason is still a waste of fuel. When will people realize that the 'green car' movement is just a dog and pony show aimed at public complacency? I live within five miles of steel factories and oil refineries that are some of the worst polluters in the country. But, hey, as long as we're driving a HYBRID CAR past them, all is well, and our kids won't get cancer. WAKE UP PEOPLE.
      • 4 Years Ago
      um, 2269 miles in less than 2 tanks does not average 59mpg? That's closer to 100, right?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Depends on the size of the gas tank. Although cars usually this size do not have a near 20 gallon gas tank.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "I am thinking now it might be possible to save some (gas) money on almost any car with some reasonable "light-footing" the accelerator."

      100% correct. At the top of the cleanmpg.com website it says, "Learn to raise fuel economy and lower emissions in whatever you drive." Whether it is a Ford 1-ton diesel or a Ford Mustang.
      • 4 Years Ago
      One easy way to improve your MPG is to keep your tires properly inflated.

      I usually check mine periodically, but I was surprised last week when I needed 3-4 psi per tire due to the unusually cold weather.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It looks like many of ya'll are very quick to offer snap judgements on how stoopid Wayne is, how his trip wasted gas, and how hypermiliers are a bunch of nuts.

      Instead of just "assuming" how or why Wayne did it, ya'll can just go to www.cleanmpg.com and click on the link on the top of the page. I know very few of ya'll will do this because reading takes effort and time, instead of taking the time to read the truth, ya'll would rather just continue to make silly assumptions.

      If you take the time to read the post you will see just how long it took Wayne to make the drive and you will realize that he didnt creep along at 40mph the entire way. Though drafting does save gas, it is mentioned frequently that this technique is very foolish and is something that you do AT YOUR OWN RISK!

      As far as the waste of gas, well the trip (from CA to GA and eventually back to Ann Arbor, MI) did use over two tanks of gas. But, the purpose of the drive was not some pleasure stunt, it was to provide information to those of use who want it. Usually when someone tests a hybrid, they drive very aggressively, bitch about how they got less than the EPA rating, and say the hybrid is a waste of money. For those of us who actually want to exploit the advanatges of the hybrid, Wayne is usually the 1st one to take a hybrid, push its effeciency to the limit, and give us hypermilers a true review. Also, by spending several days in the car, he can get a true feel for it, much better than some BS review in where the reviewer spent only 5 minutes driving the car.

      People bitch about how hypermilers drive so slow, I'll tell you what, if the rest of america makes an effort to slow down and drive closer to the speed limit, I will make an effort to speed up and drive closer as well.
      • 4 Years Ago
      You don't need to ask Wayne what his techniques are. He's a champion (twice crowned, IIRC) hypermiler.


      He can match these figures in a non-hybrid Accord.

      This is just a stunt. Any mileage figures Wayne got will bear no resemblance to use regular folks.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I was kinda excited to see how this compared to the regular Sonata's hypermiling trip.....and then I see the terrain was totally different, so you can't compare them! Lame. Still, pretty interesting.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hyundai really didn't half bake their hybrid unlike all the other me too manufacturers who shat out hybrids en mass after the Prius. Will be fun to see what people do with the volt.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I am tired of the car manufactures holding back the MPG they have the ability to make cars that get great mileage. But they are in bed with the oil companies. In the end my Mazda gets better mileage than most these Hybrids. My car is not even a hybrid!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm not sure if the Volt will be easy to hypermile since it'll just run on electricity for the first 35 miles or so, making a lot of the tricks that hypermilers use rather non-applicable. Even afterwards it'll basically be running the motor as a generator so you can't shut off the engine to coast like most hypermilers do. These guys basically get up to speed then kill the motor entirely to coast down the highway getting infinite miles per gallon before starting it back up (the "pulse and glide"). It's easiest to do this in a regular hybrid because those cars can seamlessly kill the engine and restart it when you're done gliding.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Oh come on.. slapping on the Hybrid name tag on some of them netted 1mpg more!!!!!!! /s

        I hear you though, great to see a company not slapping on a hybrid in a car to net a small claim but waiting so they can net a legit gain over their normal gas conterpart.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well I still say the 41000.00 dollars volt is just to expensive for the people that work in the USA these days 8.00 dollars an hour just isn't enough money to pay back your student loans, rent, food, Car payment, and now that the government bought all the innexpensive good running second hand cars and truck with cash for clunkers were ar certainly in a real big mess.. Has anybody tried to price a decent running used transmission or an engine for a 2001 honda civic its only a 1.7 4 cylinder vortex engine and look how much they cost that is if you ever find and that haven't been shipped to guatemala. Or maybe the Dominican republic...
        The rest of them were crunched complete good part cars...so have fun getting parts for all your innexpensive but still good 10 - 15 year old cars... One Nation, soon, in the Ghetto
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's a great hybrid car, no doubt, but when I first read about this elsewhere, I too got suspicious when initially there was no talk of any of the driving methodology used. My point is, I figured as much.
      • 4 Years Ago
      OK, he did fine, I don't think that I would have wanted to ride with him! No statement of time, was it two, three, four or two weeks?

      I have a 2007 Prius bought in November 2006 and as the cars before it, I keep track of the mileage on Excel...The Prius this year is at 41.851 mpg. Keeping in mind that not wishing to be run over on the Tollway I usually at the limit or in a crunch can go faster. I certainly won't tell how fast!....On one trip in Iowa from Boone to where the great one died along with two others which was 106 miles I got 50 MPG, yes I have the picture of the readout and a witness.
      • 4 Years Ago
      yes, but how long did it take to cross america ?

      time is money. tick tock.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hypermiling isn't safe, personally if someone really wishes to conserve and squeeze that extra MPG, just take a bike and take away the risk of putting other people at risk. Or fine, just take the slow lane on the expressway and move out of the way for serious drivers.
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