Diesel no image

Published on December 12th, 2007 | by Clayton

How to Get 76 MPG

December 12th, 2007 by  
 

VWDiesel We don’t need new technology to save us, just a little ingenuity.

After a few minor tweaks, Ernie Rogers can get up to 76 mpg in his 2003 VW diesel Beetle:

He drove 1375 miles…[on] just 18 gallons of fuel– 1200 miles of which was accomplished on just one tankfull (15.5 gallons). His trip fuel economy was 76 miles per gallon. Rogers’ car included several small refinements that added up to the exceptional mileage: a drag reducing device he designed and built himself (pictures [here]), lower-rolling-resistance tires, low-friction engine oil, and use of a B5 biodiesel blend fuel to increase efficiency and improve emissions.

That’s right, it’s a non-hybrid that puts the Prius to shame. Granted, this test was at 55 mph, but the VW still gets between 57-65 mpg at normal freeway speeds.

What’s Ernie’s great innovation? His VW might not win a beauty pageant, but it gets the job done, and it’s based on a simple concept: reducing drag.

As explained on Ernie’s website, automobile drag occurs mostly at the rear, where the course of smooth-flowing air is disrupted. Think about an airplane wing, which reduces air resistance by by guiding it along the wing’s surface to a thin edge. Although the VW beetle might seem somewhat aerodynamic to the untrained eye, drag is produced as air follows the curve of the frame. To solve this problem and create smoother air flow, Ernie installed a homemade spoiler, improving fuel economy by 5-8%.

Add low-resistance tires, low-friction engine oil, and a lubricious fuel additive (biodiesel), and you’ve got major increases in gas mileage.

If a back-yard mechanic can do this, imagine what auto-manufacturing’s best and brightest (backed by $$$) could do.

Posts Related to Car Hacks and Green Car Technology:

For more information, see the links:

Drive55.org: VW Beetle wins fuel economy prize: 76 mpg

Max MPG: Aerodynamic Modifications for Maximum Mileage

Photo Credit





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About the Author

In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.



  • shawn

    Everything I’ve read says E85 is less fuel efficient, how does he explain his opposite theory?

  • shawn

    Everything I’ve read says E85 is less fuel efficient, how does he explain his opposite theory?

  • You’re right that E85 is less fuel efficient than gasoline, diesel, or biodiesel. In this case though, Ernie Rogers used a mix of 95% diesel and 5% biodiesel fuel. Diesel engines are typically more efficient than gasoline engines. Paired with the modifications above, they can be super-efficient. If you’re still confused about the differences among these fuels, see the Biodiesel Mythbuster: http://claytonbodiecornell.greenoptions.com/2007/04/05/green-myth-busting-biodiesel/

  • You’re right that E85 is less fuel efficient than gasoline, diesel, or biodiesel. In this case though, Ernie Rogers used a mix of 95% diesel and 5% biodiesel fuel. Diesel engines are typically more efficient than gasoline engines. Paired with the modifications above, they can be super-efficient. If you’re still confused about the differences among these fuels, see the Biodiesel Mythbuster: http://claytonbodiecornell.greenoptions.com/2007/04/05/green-myth-busting-biodiesel/

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  • Donald

    Awesome.

    “We don’t need new technology to save us, just a little ingenuity.”

    There is more to the energy problem than just being more efficient in using gas. Reducing drag and making current cars more efficient is great to give us more time to solve the problem, but the fact is that there is only so much oil in the world and if we keep using it, we *will* run out. However, reducing drag is a great temporary fix, and it’s a great concept to carry into the future with whatever fuel we end up using.

  • Donald

    Awesome.

    “We don’t need new technology to save us, just a little ingenuity.”

    There is more to the energy problem than just being more efficient in using gas. Reducing drag and making current cars more efficient is great to give us more time to solve the problem, but the fact is that there is only so much oil in the world and if we keep using it, we *will* run out. However, reducing drag is a great temporary fix, and it’s a great concept to carry into the future with whatever fuel we end up using.

  • kevinde4

    I love that people are comparing standards to the Prius; “puts the Prius to shame”. If the Prius were the bad car, life would be good.

    A Prius owner.

  • kevinde4

    I love that people are comparing standards to the Prius; “puts the Prius to shame”. If the Prius were the bad car, life would be good.

    A Prius owner.

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  • James

    Did anyone read his site? he only got 55.6 mpg, thats with diesel doing 65 mph. The old EPA estimate was 49 mpg which included slower speeds and w/out the air conditioning running. So while he did improve it slightly it is nowhere near 76 mpg.

  • James

    Did anyone read his site? he only got 55.6 mpg, thats with diesel doing 65 mph. The old EPA estimate was 49 mpg which included slower speeds and w/out the air conditioning running. So while he did improve it slightly it is nowhere near 76 mpg.

    • I agree with you to an extent, however there are a few things you should know.

      1) yes, you’re right. he NEVER got 76mpg. That would be crazy.
      2) the epa estimates are nowhere near 49 mpg for this beetle tdi. I, myself, drive a 2001 and it’s epa estimate is 29city/40hwy.

  • Derek Smith

    I aggree wtih the other guy there is only so much oil and we are going to run out someday no matter what. We need to get all of the big trucks off the road and start shipping stuff on trains again. and trains could be made tto run on nuclear power, and so could all off the ocean frieghters ships. and we need to do away with commericel air travel completly its just to much of a waste of fuel. and we need to learn to live on a local economy not a world economy ,and the stock market has got to go. imean I have traded stocks to but its stupid anyway. so just do away with it, and then we do have the option of using all of the corn oil soy oil and such to run our diesel cars and pickup trucks. and also dont forget the hydrogen we can make from electrolysis called browns gas to run our cars on demand , it works I have a 2 hp briggs engine running on pure browns gas made with water and baking soda. and 12 Volts 2 amps. almost free . my next step is to build a large browns gas or hho gas generator the will make enough gas to run a small 4 cylinder engine like the 1.0 geo engine this is do able and thats about it. I like the bug thig I have two vw jettas running on wvo And hho rigyht now. So people lets start thinking and put the oil companys almost out of business,

    • Roger

      We have more known oil reserves than ever. Old taped out wells often refill. Yes we need to expand other energy options but the idea that we are running out of oil SOON is just a tool to get people worked up and willing to ALLOW stupid policies. If we are to solve these problems truth needs to be used not hysteria.
      You are onto one major part of the solution with hydrogen. There are two main stumbling blocks to widespread hydrogen use. Safety, hydrogen is so powerful that small amounts of it can do huge amounts of work. It is very volatile. With very little expense or knowledge a person could build a hydrogen station in their garage and they would likely blow themselves and some of their neighbors up. I am sure that cleaver minds could come up with solutions to that aspect of it. The main stumbling block to hydrogen use is………how to keep making big bucks on it. After all it is everywhere. Kinda hard to come up with believable shortages. The big boys would have to compete with a thousand small guys keeping the price down. It is not inconceivable that once the genie is out of the bottle people could come up with safe ways to supply their own needs. That is not desirable to those that make the rules at this time.

  • Derek Smith

    I aggree wtih the other guy there is only so much oil and we are going to run out someday no matter what. We need to get all of the big trucks off the road and start shipping stuff on trains again. and trains could be made tto run on nuclear power, and so could all off the ocean frieghters ships. and we need to do away with commericel air travel completly its just to much of a waste of fuel. and we need to learn to live on a local economy not a world economy ,and the stock market has got to go. imean I have traded stocks to but its stupid anyway. so just do away with it, and then we do have the option of using all of the corn oil soy oil and such to run our diesel cars and pickup trucks. and also dont forget the hydrogen we can make from electrolysis called browns gas to run our cars on demand , it works I have a 2 hp briggs engine running on pure browns gas made with water and baking soda. and 12 Volts 2 amps. almost free . my next step is to build a large browns gas or hho gas generator the will make enough gas to run a small 4 cylinder engine like the 1.0 geo engine this is do able and thats about it. I like the bug thig I have two vw jettas running on wvo And hho rigyht now. So people lets start thinking and put the oil companys almost out of business,

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  • tomo-kun

    Very good design for a home-brew spoiler, it appears to be “done right.”

    When smart designed the… umm smart series of cars, they kept a low profile front-end, but added a spoiler as part of the body design, even on their convertibles. There is no question, it works. In combination with an efficient turbodiesel engine, it can work very well toward meeting 70 mpg right off the dealer’s lot.

  • tomo-kun

    Very good design for a home-brew spoiler, it appears to be “done right.”

    When smart designed the… umm smart series of cars, they kept a low profile front-end, but added a spoiler as part of the body design, even on their convertibles. There is no question, it works. In combination with an efficient turbodiesel engine, it can work very well toward meeting 70 mpg right off the dealer’s lot.

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  • I don’t think he ever got 76 mpg. I hate it when people don’t get the facts right.

  • He’s increased fuel economy 5-8% with the wing. Great but not stunning
    http://www.max-mpg.com/html/tech/main.htm

    Some folks have improved efficiency on other cars by building underbody pans to to get another 5-10% depending on the car.

    The real benefit for this fellow is starting with an economical diesel.

    I wanted to put a diesel in my ’87 4Runner, but I read enough horror stories about dealing with CA DMV on that kind of conversion that I just put another gasser in it. Remember, CA won’t allow the Jeep 3.0 diesel…

  • Ian Hernandez

    I need to know what special features the spoiler offers so I can try to imitate.

  • Lauren Elise Cordova

    Hello Clayton!

    I have no idea when this was posted, but I would love to get more information on getting this kind of gas mileage from my 2009 Beetle. All the links go to websites that no longer exist. I really just need to know if all I need is a spoiler (one that is the most aerodynamic I can find – probably from CarID.com), low-resistance tires, low-friction engine oil, and a bio-diesel additive. If there are any other tricks or tips, that would be amazing. I love my car and I would like to get the most out of it.

    Please and Thank You!

  • sean t

    Look at fuelly.com and see how the Beetle compared to the Prius. This is a scam.

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