• 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. 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.

[Source: Hyundai]



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
      I'm all for great mileage.
      And not really opposed to these hypermiling stunts.
      At least I don't lose sleep over them.

      However, the truth is that a lot of techniques of hyper-milers are simply unsafe driving.
      Shifting a car into and out of neutral or turning the engine on and off while driving are just stupid things to be doing really.

      I don't know.
      Perhaps my notions of the techniques are incorrect.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Engine off: Depends on the situation. I turned my engine off for a few miles during a 250 mile trip that i'd regularly take, and it wasn't dangerous at all as i'd do it while at high speeds where the power steering isn't needed, and when there were no cars on the road ( at 1am. ). With the engine off, the power braking system still has about 5 seconds worth of braking power in reserve, so if you need to make a sudden stop, you still are able to do it.

        Turning the engine off can be advantageous in situations where you have enough momentum to keep a steady speed ( slight downhill ), but being in top gear and letting DFCO do it's job would slow you down too much. These situations are rare.

        Neutral shift: not dangerous. You have equal ( or more ) braking power as an automatic transmission car in neutral as you don't have an engine fighting the brakes. Most manual transmission cars' brakes are overspecced. I wouldn't say this is unsafe.

        • 4 Years Ago
        "Shifting a car into and out of neutral or turning the engine on and off while driving are just stupid things to be doing really."

        I'll give you manual engine on/off, but if shifting a car in and out of neutral is dangerous for a driver, that driver probably shouldn't be allowed to drive.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Actually with hybrids you should not turn off the engine or put it in neutral since then the battery won't regenerate.
      • 4 Years Ago
      First in line to get one and trade in my FX45 in 15-30 days.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I do the best I can by lots of coasting after gentle starts, as little idling as possible by driving blocks ahead, usually get the EPA mileage figures, and have for years. But ethanol is 30% less efficient, with 3% lower total yield, cold/wet weather costs, too.
      I use much higher tire pressure in front, commensurate with the percentage load they carry versus the rear. No extra tools or load on board. The usual, easy to do stuff.
      If Hyundai made a Sonata wagon (Red, red interior, please) I'd be first on board. But depreciation's still the biggest expense the first few years, and I've beaten much of that. Gas would have to double to make a meaningful decision to bail on my Mazda6 wagon. My biggest expense so far's been brakes, which get so little use two of the pistons froze from the salt here. One front, one rear pad worn, so all eight had to be replaced, along with the scored rotors and their other side pairs. Still on the original six YO battery!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Did I miss something? ... How LONG did the trip take? If you saved money on gas .. Cool .. But if you spent more on hotels and food because you were out longer Not sure how this helps other than you can say you did it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Before you start slamming this drive, read all the details.

      There was NO drafting ! Hypermiling does NOT entail drafting . Drafting is a dangerous practice and is abhorred by legitimate hypermilers and this is continually stated at CleanMPG. Look at Autoblog's gallery for the route. Some of the mountain driving was from near sea level to over 4000' above. Driving was done in rain and in temps below 32° f.

      This was NOT a Cannonball Run. The goal was to go coast to coast on 2 tanks of fuel. As with most cars, it did hold more than the spec'd 17.2 gallons (US). 38 gallons (US) were used for 2339.5 Miles at 61.42 MPG . The final numbers changed a bit due to an odometer correction factor. I had already emailed the initial numbers to Hyundai and they had been released.

      No! Everyone will NOT get 61 MPG out of the Sonata Hybrid, only those that wish to maximize the potential of the car will. If you drive it similar to "normal" driving you should get at least the EPA estimated or more.

      The car maintained above 53mpg with the cruise set on 65mph on the trip to Ann Arbor, MI to return the car.

      With gas prices estimated hitting $4 by December 2011 and $5 by December 2012, embrace cars like the Hyundai Sonata and the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Let Americans have a choice of what they want and can afford to drive. Some will want to save money by saving fuel, and some will want to waste money by slamming the accelerator to the floor at every chance they get. That is your choice as an American.

      By the same token, driving at the SPEED LIMIT is the law.

      According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary the Definition of SPEED LIMIT: the maximum or minimum speed permitted by law in a given area under specified circumstances. Read the first link and you will see how he drove.
      If you drive above the 65mph limit, you are breaking the law. In Illinois on the interstates that have a 65mph posted speed LIMIT, the minimum is posted at 45mph. I drive at 65 to 60mph on those roads.

      If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I will respond to civilized questions.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I will respond to civilized questions."

        Just one: What was the average driving speed?

        The start 12-25-10 and end dates 1-1-11 ... seem to suggest an average of around ~300 Miles per day of driving... but I haven't seen an indication of how many hours of driving for the whole trip.

        Even if he was only driving for ~8 hours out of every 24 hour day that would be an average of around ~38 MPH.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I will find out tomorrow. He is still catching up after the trip.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I responded on the other article thread.
      • 4 Years Ago

      'up to' is not average.

      DWL ( Drive with Load ) style of Pulse and Glide Wayne used for this trip anyone would expected to be more ICE efficient as seen on any BSFC chart.

      Energy used per mile goes up more than your speed goes up.
      At 2x MPH you will have about 2x Rolling Resistance , and 4x Aerodynamic Resistance.

      He reported a ~50% increase in MPG.
      How much of that was just from reduced average speed?
      How much was DWL P&G technique?
      How much was just the vehicle driving a different cycle than the EPA test Highway Cycle?

      We can get a much better understanding of the results by knowing the average speed over the trip.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The biggest missing piece of information ... what was the average MPH?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Its says he drove to the posted speed limits.
      • 4 Years Ago

      It is dangerous and, in some states, against the law to coast in neutral. You have less control of your vehicle in an emergency situation.
      • 4 Years Ago
      it's a fossil fuel burner. nothing more.

      no plug no green
        • 4 Years Ago
        if you actually thought a bit instead of being mindless you might be able to realize what the solution is.

        no plug no green
        • 4 Years Ago
        No plug no green? By what standard do you arrive at this ridiculous statement? Exactly WHERE does the electric power required to charge your "plug in" green vehicle come from? Unless you have the capability to charge your batteries from solar - you don't have a green vehicle by your standards. Electric power generation comes from ... wait for it ... OIL or COAL in the majority of the world.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Get ready to hear more and more about hypermiling as the gas prices start to increase.

      Wayne is definitely an inspiration..
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