This study involves the improvement of overall efficiency in series hybrid-electric vehicles (SHEVs) by restricting the operation of the engine to the optimal efficiency region, using a control strategy based on two chattering-free sliding mode controllers (SMCs). One of the designed SMCs performs engine speed control, while the other controls the engine/generator torque, together achieving the engine operation in the optimal efficiency region of the torque-speed curve. The control strategy is designed for application on a SHEV converted from a standard high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV) and simulated by using the Matlab-based PNGV Systems Analysis Toolkit (PSAT). The performance of the control strategy is compared with that of the original PSAT model, which utilizes PI controllers, a feedforward term for the engine torque, and comprehensive maps for the engine, generator and power converter (static only), which constitute the auxiliary power unit (APU). In this study, in spite of the simple modeling approach taken to model the APU and the optimal efficiency region, an improved performance has been achieved with the new SMC based strategy in terms of overall efficiency, engine efficiency, fuel economy, and emissions. The control strategy developed in this work is the first known application of SMC to SHEVs, and offers a simple, effective and modular approach to problems related to SHEVs.