We've learned to take official EPA gas-mileage ratings with a pinch of salt in the past. They're useful for comparing model to model, but not always representative of the figures real people out in the real world will achieve.

That's not to say that the EPA's fuel efficiency numbers can't be beaten, however. Australian couple the Taylors have proved it possible in several record-breaking fuel economy challenges, most recently managing 64 mpg over 9,000 miles in a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco.

Wayne Gerdes and his friend Chris Bernius are hoping to set a similar record in a 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid, as they travel through 48 states and over 8,000 miles to set a new record for lowest gasoline hybrid fuel consumption.

The strikingly-styled Optima Hybrid is rated at 35 mpg city and 40 mpg highway, while offering the performance to reach 62 mph (100 kph) in 9.2 seconds. It does so using a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with electric assistance, meaning a total of 206 horsepower and 195 lb ft of torque.

According to Thomas Oh, Senior Executive Vice President & COO of Kia Motors Corporation, the journey should be perfectly suited to the Optima: "It has been specifically designed to achieve maximum fuel economy in all driving conditions, not just in the city... [it] is the ultimate 'real-world' challenge".

Gerdes and Bernius set off from Kia Motors' manufacturing plant in West Point, Georgia, on Friday, August 26. Heading clockwise around the country through 48 states, they expect to finish on September 10.

You can track their progress on the Kia Motors Facebook page, and the pair have covered over 1,200 miles so far, and according to the car tracker they're currently heading towards Albuquerque, NM.

So far, their Kia has been averaging an impressive 69 miles per gallon... how long until they crack 70 mpg?

[Kia Buzz]


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