Hypermilers set world record for fuel economy in Passat TDI

Bob Winger fills the Volkswagen Passat TDI at the headquarters of Volkswagen Group of America in Herndon, Va.
Bob Winger fills the Volkswagen Passat TDI at the headquarters of Volkswagen Group of America in Herndon, Va.
(Kevin Wolf / AP Images for Volkswagen of America)

Drivers Wayne Gerdes and Bob Winger set a new Guinness World Record for lowest fuel consumption by a non-hybrid during their 8,000-mile trek across 48 states in a 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI Clean Diesel.

Gerdes, a practiced “hypermiler” who runs the online community CleanMPG, and his co-pilot Winger averaged nearly 78 miles per gallon during their 17-day trip ending Sunday. That’s 10 mpg better than the previous record of 67.9 mpg, and about 13 mpg better than the hybrid record of 64.6. For comparison, the EPA estimated that the average Passat TDI driver might get 43 mpg on highways. The only noted modification was a set of Continental low rolling resistance tires, according to a VW spokesman.

The pair started their journey in Herndon, Va., shooting for 68 mpg. “We felt we had a good chance of beating the existing record,” Gerdes said, “but to smash it by averaging 77.99 mpg is really impressive... It shows how much the fuel consumption depends on the driver.”


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That might add some weight to the response of automakers facing class-action lawsuits over fuel economy claims. Most recently, Ford was slapped with suits in California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania about its 2013 C-Max and Fusion Hybrids. Both the automaker and the EPA have said real-world gas mileage depends on the way drivers burn through their tanks.

For TDI owners looking to maximize fuel economy, Gerdes offered some tips: Look down the road 15 to 45 seconds ahead of your car to adjust for obstructions, and use momentum to carry you through steep inclines. Go easy on the accelerator and brakes; try to coast up to stop lights and gently get back up to speed. Finally, stick to the posted speed limit. According to Gerdes, the difference in fuel economy between 55 mph and 75 mph can be 30% or higher -- as if drivers needed another reason to retire the lead foot.


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