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.
HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID DEMONSTRATES FUEL EFFICIENCY AND RANGE IN CROSS-CONTINENTAL TREK
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 .