• Jan 4, 2011
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Cross Country Blue Drive – Click above for image gallery

Last fall, hypermiler Wayne Gerdes proposed to Hyundai that he drive a 2011 Sonata Hybrid across the country to help the automaker get the vehicle from the media launch location in California to Ann Arbor, MI, saying he thought he could do it with fewer than two tanks of gas. Of course, he proposed it on October, when the temperatures were still pretty warm and before he knew what the Sonata Hybrids's fuel tank capacity is. Back then, he told AutoblogGreen today, he thought, the car was "worth 65 [miles per gallon] in the summer. In the winter, with the mountains, that's a crapshoot."

Gerdes recently finished the drive, which totaled 2,269.3 miles and squeezed out 59.58 mpg. Along the way, Gerdes learned that the car can hold at least 20.6 gallons, because that's how much he managed to put in at the first fill up. The Hybrid's official stated capacity is 17.2 gallons (the standard Soanta holds 18.5 gallons), but official numbers are not something that concerns Gerdes too much. The EPA rates the Sonata Hybrid at 40 mpg on the highway, and he would need much more than that to make the drive without filling up three times.

In the end, Gerdes learned that, "This thing, on the highway, will eat up anything. In fact, it came damn near the Prius, but it's a heavier car. And I'm a big Prius fan." The Sonata Hybrid is not a great city car, Gerdes said, but he did have plenty more praise for the vehicle that took him coast to coast (he first drove to Georgia before coming north to Michigan), and you can find that after the jump.

Gerdes set up the cross-country route to be as efficient as possible, but was still uncertain he could meet his target. Once on the open road, one thing Gerdes learned is that the Sonata Hybrid's claimed top all-electric cruise limit of 62 miles per hour doesn't exist and he could get the car to go much faster in EV mode. "I stopped at 88 mph," he said. "That's what's so cool about this. The car does it automatically."

sonata hybrid crosscountry drive hypermile

Gerdes wanted to clarify some details about the three different hypermile experiments he has been on recently and that we mentioned yesterday: the Sonata Hybrid drive, a standard Sonata trip over 1,065 miles that resulted in 66.285 mpg and a 1,445-mile Ford Fusion Hybrid trip where he got 81.5 mpg. Each adventure was unique and intended to do different things. The Sonata Hybrid trip was meant to see if the two-tank drive was possible, the regular Sonata was a way to get from Wisconsin to New Jersey and the Fusion Hybrid was along a special route that Gerdes designed with Ford in and around Washington, D.C. as a showcase to politicians there. It was planned to stay on roads that had a maximum speed limit of 40 mph, which helped the Fusion – which Gerdes called "a great city vehicle" that is limited on the highway by its 47 mph EV glide speed – and it happened when the temperatures were between 70 and 90 degrees. The standard Sonata drive was also done in warm temperatures and he had a slight tailwind along the way. While the drives are not directly comparable, Gerdes had enough seat time in each vehicle to figure out where they shine:
"The Fusion Hybrid will give you good city performance but the Sonata is a highway cruiser like I've never experienced before. You don't want to get in a Prius and drive 500 miles. It's not a highway vehicle, but that's where the Sonata kicks ass. It's not an appliance.
Even though he's become a big fan of the Sonata, Gerdes told AutoblogGreen he thinks the Chevrolet Volt will win the 2011 Car of the Year award. Having driven the Volt, his staff was overall unhappy with the car, especially given the limited back seat space, but he thinks the judges will end up picking GM's halo car.

Lastly, it's worth noting that while Gerdes' CleanMPG forum has a disclaimer – "Some posts may describe situations which may in some cases be unsafe or illegal in some jurisdictions. Please use common sense and consult your local laws to make sure you do not hurt yourself or others or break any laws" – he told AutoblogGreen that he did nothing dangerous or illegal during the drive. He stayed within posted speed limits and did not draft behind semi trucks, preferring to say around 3-7 seconds behind the car in front of him. He also didn't do the drive for money (although Hyundai did promise to pay for his fuel), but to challenge himself and to see what the Sonata Hybrid was capable of. That's the most important thing he learned: it's capable of a lot. You can get more details of the drive – and we mean lots more details – over at CleanMPG.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Still no report of what the average speed was over the trip.
      I think, that should have been one of the first questions asked.
        • 4 Hours Ago
        Per Wayne: "The speed driven was the posted speed limit." It was NOT at the 25 to 35 mph of the Ford Fusion drive. This was across the country through head winds, cross winds, tail winds and snow. It included several stops per leg.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hypermiling aside, the manner in which the Sonata switched between gas and electric every minute or so during steady state cruise amazed me. Hyundai really did their homework here.
      • 4 Hours Ago
      Dan Frederiksen,"still a heavy unaerodynamic fossil fuel burner."

      Do your homework Dan. The Sonata Hybrid has a cd of .25. The Nissan Leaf has a cd of .29.
      How is the Sonata unaerodynamic? We are still in a transitional stage. There aren't enough EV's for everyone and if you're going to drive across the US, will you do it in an EV?

      dan9868: This story is credible: Google Wayne's name. Ask the editor of Autoblog.
        • 4 Hours Ago
        msirach posted: "Per Wayne: "The speed driven was the posted speed limit.""

        Three points:
        #1> That does not answer the question ... What was the average driving speed?

        #2> It is also not possible to average driving at the posted speed limit in traffic ... or red lights ... etc... even excluding rest stops and such ... The original question still remains ... What was the average driving speed? ... when he was driving what did he average?

        #3> Given the start date , end date, and distance ... it seems Wayne averaged about ~300 Miles per day ... on a cross country road trip ... that seems pretty low to me for someone driving the posted speed limit on highways ... unless he was driving on average less than ~5 Hours out of each 24 hour day... which in itself would also seem odd to me.
      • 4 Years Ago

      Do you have anything to support your claim. Atkinson Cycle and DI
      are not mutually exclusive as your post implies. I found this:

      "The Sonata Hybrid uses a 2.4-liter direct-injection gasoline engine
      that has been modified to run on the Atkinson Cycle along with a
      standard six-speed automatic transmission instead of a CVT that is
      traditionally used with hybrids."


        • 4 Hours Ago
        I am not claiming anything.
        If someone wants to make a direct injection Atkinson cycle, there is nothing preventing them from doing so.
        Hyundai's atkinson does not utilize direct injection.
        Someone must have looked at the 13:1 compression ratio and assumed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Trolls have a right to their religion. Even if - like most - they have little to do with reality.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What a stupid test and report. He's comparing a BRAND NEW vehicle to a Prius that's been out for such a long long time.

      And besides....what's the point of making all these stupid tests only to prove it still runs of fuel and wastes all these resources? Yeah we know...it gets 40+MPG...and you burned through 3 TANKS of fuel to tell us that?

      Fking idiot.
        • 4 Hours Ago
        Perhaps some of us want to know how it performs, including the fuel economy?
      • 4 Years Ago
      One other thing....how does it compare to the Prius in city driving? Good mileage on the highway is really is really a no brainer....I get almost 36MPG overall when driving on the freeway with my slushbox 2001 Ford Focus....
      • 4 Years Ago
      We must not forget this story is assuming everything is true to form. Unless an ordeal like this is sanction by some well known reputable organization, one has to doubt at how accurate it is.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I knew this car would perform well.
      Hyundai's updated 2.4L motor is pretty awesome and even the non-hybrid model has been known to reach into the 35-40mpg range on the highway.

      I am surprised that the car has a 0.25cD. That's equal to the Kammback Prius..... how'd they do it?!!!??
        • 4 Hours Ago
        The hybrid model does not have direct injection.
        It is the atkinson version.
        • 4 Hours Ago
        Uh huh.
        How do you know that the atkinson cycle motor is not just basically a modified version of the more recent GDI theta engine?

        Nonetheless, does it really matter?
        • 4 Hours Ago
        No, you said 'updated'
        The Theta2 was under the hood of the '09 Sonata. The updated version, direct injection, is under the hood of the '11 Sonata.
        • 4 Hours Ago
        Never said it did ;)
      • 4 Years Ago
      still a heavy unaerodynamic fossil fuel burner.
      not green in the slighest. planet killer. peak oil crisis bringer.

      wake up people
        • 4 Hours Ago
        "I had you trolls pacified for a while but now it seems the mindless down voting entourage is back."

        You mean...the entire rest of the universe? We never left, Dan...
        • 4 Hours Ago
        The original comment is an excellent example of fanatical ignorance:

        1. Hybrids save much more gas than an electric for the same amount of battery. Four hybrids can be created for the same battery resources as an electric, multiplying the gas savings times four.

        2. If it takes me 10 gallons of gas to go 100 miles I save 5 gallons by upgrading to a 20mpg car. If I compare a 20mpg ICE to a 100mpg electric I only save 4 gallons over 100mi. Therefore, upgrading to a somewhat more efficient car is a better use of resources than an owner of a somewhat efficient car buying a new electric one
        • 4 Hours Ago
        I had you trolls pacified for a while but now it seems the mindless down voting entourage is back.
        I guess I have to pull off a major coup on a regular basis for you to remember I am generally always right. Remarkable how incompetent you can be and so persistently. Ah well, I guess I shouldn't dignify you with attention.
        • 4 Hours Ago
        ^-- still a troll
        • 4 Hours Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Too bad its so damn ugly up front. Yeesh...
        • 4 Hours Ago
        Agreed. That thing is unfortunate looking. Left it in the microwave a bit too long.
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