We are taking a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid on a little road trip
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- Dec. 24, 2010
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid at speed in the desert - $25,795 to start while providing its owners a first for a mid-sized sedan, 40 mpgUS EPA highway rating!
Safe, affordable and fuel efficient… And in early winter, we are attempting to find out just how fuel efficient Hyundai’s latest Sonata really is.
The Lead up
Turn back the clock to mid-August when I proposed transporting one of the 2011 Sonata Hybrids from the recently completed Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Long Lead Press Launch in La Jolla, CA back to either a Midwest or East Coast Press Fleet. While the request was not accepted at that time, our friends at Hyundai are now allowing us to transport one of the beauty’s back to Hyundai’s Tech Center near Ann Arbor, MI.
Since I am now tasked with crossing much of the country, why not make the drive a bit more “Challenging
Beginning on the afternoon of Dec. 26th, we will begin driving one of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrids from San Diego, CA on the Pacific to Brunswick, GA on the Atlantic covering approximately 2,315 miles in early winter. Brunswick, GA is a long way from Ann Arbor, MI is it not? Ok, so I am taking a little detour
And you are asking yourself, “What is so challenging about driving from coast to coast”? What if we are going to attempt to drive the 40 mpgUS highway rated and 17.2 gallon fuel tank equipped Sonata Hybrid across 2,315 miles on less than two tanks of fuel? Doing the math, it’s scary
While our own 2011 Hyundai Sonata Preview
netted a touch under 50 mpg on a very short 9.9 mile city/suburban route in excellent temperatures and conditions, we will find out together just how far a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid can be driven while experiencing temperatures and conditions ranging from below freezing at night across much of New Mexico and parts of Texas to sections where the car should experience the low 70’s.
How do you go from 50 mpg around a Chicago area city/suburban route to 65 mpg on the Interstate with higher speeds and in far harsher conditions? That is the part we are going to find out on the fly.
Our own Skeptics
While we have been hashing out the details in the mods lounge for quite some time, I thought it would be appropriate if we posted some of the more colorful commentary.
Paul Bates, CleanMPG moderator:
“Gents, I do not want to be a downer but from what I can find, 2 tanks will require extraordinary mileage:
The hybrid's tank holds 1.3 gallons less than the standard model. That would mean three tanks would be a stretch if conditions were ideal.
If it’s possible, 3 tanks might be the number to work with. Tanks can be lots of sizes; it’s the total gallons that should prove the point.
Just something for thought.”
Point well taken!
Al Sichelstiel, CleanMPG moderator:
“You do realize you have to average 68 mpg across the continental U.S.?
San Diego to Jacksonville is 2,369 miles and the Sonata has a 17.2 gallon tank. 2369/35 = 67.68 mpg.
Ok I recalculated and the shortest route is 2319 miles.
Still 2319/35 = 66.25 mpg.
You guys have your work cut out for this little romp across the country.”
Nobody said it was going to be easy let alone possible but we’ll give it our best. Given the changing conditions over the past 48-hours, 2 tanks is a stretch indeed.
While we do not know what the Sonata Hybrid is capable of in the conditions it will be driven through, I am going to assume the 17.2 gallon spec’ed fuel tank will actually hold at least 18.5 gallons. Most of today’s vehicles have a little more volume and we are hoping the Sonata Hybrid does as well. To make it on that amount of fuel would demand the Sonata Hybrid provide just a bit north of 62 mpgUS. That is a lot of mpg’s for a car weighing in at almost 3,500 pounds!
Hyundai’s first North American hybrid system arrives as what is called the Hyundai “Blue Drive” system.
The 2.4L I4
- Because the electric traction motor (see below) provides a great deal of torque at low RPM’s, Hyundai incorporated a lesser torque output capable, late intake valve closing Atkinson cycle into the 2.4L engine that reduces pumping losses and improves overall thermodynamic efficiency.
The net result is improved overall fuel economy thanks to the engine design and increased power and torque response due to the electric motor.
We hope to take advantage of the Sonata Hybrid’s Atkinson cycle at somewhat steady state speeds while using a “Driving with Load” (DWL) approach.
Electric Motor and in particular, the “Clutch”
- The Sonata Hybrid is equipped with a 40 HP permanent magnet synchronous electric traction motor that produces 151 lb-ft. of torque from zero rpm. The motor is hard-coupled to the input of the transmission and completely replaces the torque converter. A multi-disc clutch pack sits within the inner circumference of the traction motor and is used to de-couple the motor from the 2.4L I4 for idle stop and up to 62 mph EV mode.
A truly engine and MGSet decoupled “pure glide” can be achieved at speeds below 62 mph without dragging both the gear set and the engine at the same time! It is not the EV, it’s the glide that makes or breaks highway fuel economy and we will take advantage of this at every opportunity.
Li-Po Battery Tech
- While a Charge Sustaining mode Hybrid like the Sonata would not gain much fuel economy using any number of the latest battery chemistries and cell designs, it does receive an increase thanks to the Li-Po designs lower weight by comparison to today’s standard NiMH designs. In addition, the LG Chem based Li-Po chemistry is said to improve longevity over other Li-Ion battery chemistries we will see over the next few years.
- The Sonata Hybrid features a unique exterior that includes a combination of a re-shaped front and rear fascias with a deeper air dam, extended rocker panels and lower drag wheels. The drag coefficient for the Sonata Hybrid is stated at an exceptionally low 0.25 which compares favorably to the 2011 Prius with the same.
In addition to a great aerodynamics package in a modern day aesthetically pleasing exterior, the Sonata Hybrid is equipped with low Rolling Resistance Coefficient (RRc) tires.
Let us hope all of the features the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid provides are enough.
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Transcontinental Challenge Miscellaneous
Given the maximum range and fuel economy nature of this drive, I made a special request of Hyundai that they do a fresh alignment of all four wheels. While this is not normally granted by a manufacturer for a vehicle in their respective Press Fleets, because of the testing (“flogging” would be a better term) that some of the other media outlets may have driven the Sonata Hybrid like, Hyundai agreed.
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Alignment – Before and After
All alignment destroying hard driving by previous journalists has been erased.
In addition, I am packing a 2-gallon fuel container so when she does hit fuel starve alongside the Intestate in Texas somewhere, I will have the ability to add a documented amount of fuel and drive to the next upcoming gas station in order to discover just how much that Sonata Hybrid actually holds. And I hope it is a wee bit more than just 17.2 gallons.
A CleanMPG “Maximum” road trip is not a trip without a number of cans of Pepsi stowed in various hidden and not so hidden locations inside the car. We will find out just how many 12 oz. cans the Sonata Hybrid can hold in slightly less than 24-hours from now
December 25th launch? I wanted to get out of Southern California with the least amount of traffic and that day seemed as good as any other? The wife is not too happy but sometimes you just have to say, “Just do it”!
Loose Itinerary and Latest Weather Conditions
Saturday Dec. 25th
San Diego, CA – Start
– Partly Cloudy/Showers - Hi/Lo 65/55 with Winds from the S/S @7/8 mph
Yuma, AZ – 150 miles out
– Mostly Sunny/Partly Cloudy - Hi/Lo 72/51 with Winds from the NE/E @6/2 mph
Sunday Dec. 26th
Casa Grande, AZ – 320 miles out
– Partly Cloudy/Partly Cloudy - Hi/Lo 68/41 with Winds from the SE/WNW @6/3 mph
Tucson, AZ – 400 miles out
– Mostly Sunny/Partly Cloudy - Hi/Lo 72/42 with Winds from the SE/SW @10/4 mph
Deming, NM – 615 miles out
– Sunny/Overnight Low - Hi/Lo 60/27 with Winds from the E/ENE @10/6 mph
Las Cruces, NM – 670 miles out
– Mostly Sunny/Partly Cloudy - Hi/Lo 61/35 with Winds from the SSE/SW @4/2 mph
Monday Dec. 27th
Carlsbad, NM – 880 miles out
– Mostly Sunny/Clear - Hi/Lo 56/27 with Winds from the N/N @21/6 mph
Lamesa, TX – 1,020 miles out
– Partly Cloudy/Mostly Cloudy - Hi/Lo 56/33 with Winds from the SE/SSE @13/6 mph
Breckenridge, TX – 1,200 miles out
– Rain/ Partly Cloudy - Hi/Lo 43/29 with Winds from the N/NNW @13/11 mph
Tuesday Dec. 28th
Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX – 1,320 miles out
– Cloudy/Showers - Hi/Lo 55/47 with Winds from the SSE/SSE @10/7 mph
Longview, TX – 1,465 miles out
– Cloudy/Showers - Hi/Lo 57/45 with Winds from the SSE/SSE @8/6 mph
Shreveport, LA – 1,530 miles out
– Mostly Cloudy/Showers - Hi/Lo 53/42 with Winds from the SSE/SSE @8/5 mph
Wednesday, Dec. 29th
Monroe, LA – 1,630 miles out
– Showers/Showers - Hi/Lo 66/48 with Winds from the SE/SSE @10/6 mph
Jackson, MS – 1,750 miles out
– Few Showers/Showers - Hi/Lo 63/47 with Winds from the SSE/SSE @10/9 mph
Meridian, MS – 1,840 miles out
– Partly Cloudy/Showers - Hi/Lo 60/44 with Winds from the SSE/SSE @9/6 mph
Selma, AL – 1,945 miles out
– Partly Cloudy/Showers - Hi/Lo 57/41 with Winds from the SSE/SE @6/5 mph
Montgomery, AL – 2,000 miles out
– Partly Cloudy/Showers - Hi/Lo 56/41 with Winds from the S/SE @6/4 mph
Thursday, Dec. 30th
Eufaula, AL – 2,080 miles ou
t – Showers/Showers - Hi/Lo 66/44 with Winds from the SE/SSE @9/5 mph
Albany, GA – 2,150 miles out
– Scattered Showers/Scattered Showers - Hi/Lo 67/44 with Winds from the SSE/SSE @9/4 mph
Waycross, GA – 2,265 miles out
– Partly Cloudy/Partly Cloudy - Hi/Lo 69/42 with Winds from the SSE/SSE @7/2 mph
Brunswick, GA – 2,320 miles out
– Mostly Sunny/Partly Cloudy - Hi/Lo 68/44 with Winds from the SSE/S @8/2 mph
As of this write-up read from the most up to date forecasts as shown above, there is not a single day of optimal conditions so it is going to be a heck of a battle.
Other gear: My 0 degree sleeping bag just in case, a week and a half worth of clothes, some minor tools and emergency gear, Rain-X the windows, a GPS, portable Verizon Internet solution for updates on the road and of course some sun glasses…
Once I reach Brunswick, the Sonata heads back up to Ann Arbor, MI where we will have to say good bye
Elwood Blues would have probably said the following if he were in my shoes:
“It's 2,300 plus miles to the Atlantic, we've got a full tank of gas, a full case of Pepsi, it's dark, and I will be wearing sunglasses.”
Wish us luck as we learn about the Hyundai Sonata’s maximums in a no holds barred blast across the country in “challenging