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. UPDATE: they did not), 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: You can read our interview with Wayne here.
*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.