Fuel scam of the day

I am indebted to a Victorian reader for this extraordinary piece of news from the May '07 issue of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, here in Australia.

Nonsense from the RACV magazine.

It contains so many little tidbits of complete off-the-wall wrongness that I can only surmise it's been deliberately written that way to amuse people who have some vague comprehension of scientific reality.

From the top:

The claims made are pretty standard for scam fuel saving products. 10 to 20 per cent less fuel consumption, 10 to 30 per cent more power, half the "pollution".

This is all meant to be achieved by using electrolytic hydrogen and oxygen to improve combustion. Which is pretty impressive when you realise that only one to two per cent of the input fuel is not already combusted by a decently tuned modern engine.

The pollution reduction claims are pretty hilarious, too. The only way to reduce carbon monoxide and dioxide output at the tailpipe, for a given amount of fuel going into the engine, is to do something else with those carbon and oxygen molecules. Apparently this device just makes them... go away.

Helium as a combustion product is impossible, unless there's hydrogen fusion going on in the combustion chamber. Helium is present in crude oil and natural gas, and passes through unchanged into the exhaust of anything that burns those substances, but I don't think any detectable amount of helium ends up in gasoline after the refining process.

Patents don't mean a device works. The Patent Office of most countries will let you patent anything that isn't obviously a perpetual motion machine, and some don't even draw that line. They protect your invention; they don't verify its usefulness.

And now comes the real punchline - the sudden change of track onto ozone depletion, which has nothing whatsoever to do with vehicle pollution. Ozone depletion is caused by chlorine and bromine compounds, and there's no chlorine or bromine in vehicle fuel, so no such compounds come out of the tailpipe.

And, finally, the ozone layer over China is much the same as the ozone layer over Australia, these days. Since the two countries are also at broadly similar latitudes, sunburn risks are also roughly the same.

I can only surmise that either Tony Fawcett (the alleged author of this piece) and his editors are all blithering idiots who're completely unqualified to write for any kind of motoring magazine, or this story was accidentally held over from the April issue.

10 Responses to “Fuel scam of the day”

  1. Dan Gordon Says:

    Of course, if he was in a big Chinese city, then Kevin might have been protected from the sun's damaging rays by airborne pollution.

  2. Matt W Says:

    Hilarious. Probably the most cringe inducing article yet.
    My vote is for collective imbecility at the RACV and Box Hill.

  3. corinoco Says:

    "I could get around with no sunscreen in the middle of summer and not get burnt"

    Gimme some'o'that sheer teknoligy.

    He might have:
    1. Stayed in the shade.
    2. Not gone outside.
    3. Worn a good hat, sunglasses and long-sleeved shirt / trouser
    4. Stayed under the annual South-East Asian Smog Hood

    All of which are entirely possible (and I can confirm that) in China. The 4th is thankfully not possible in Australia. Yet.

    3 guys at my office saw this article (or other reports in cat-litter filling (cough) newspapers and / or talkback radiation) and believed every word.

    "So what" you may say, "there's a sucker born every 2 seconds*"

    Ah, yes, but these imbeciles guys I work with are architects - they they have design buildings you may one day have to stand under.

    Be afraid; and hope you stand under one of mine!

  4. corinoco Says:

    * - my calculation, 60 seconds is too generous by far.

    The entire 2nd last line should also read:

    Ah, yes, but these imbeciles guys I work with are architects - they may have designed a building you may one day have to stand under.

  5. Mohonri Says:

    Wow. Anybody who's taken a high school chemistry course would be able to debunk this one. Holy smokes!

    Re: Helium in gasoline--Helium is actually quite valuable, as things-that-come-out-of-the-ground go. I work for an oil company, and there's a natural gas plant in Wyoming that actually gets (IIRC) 25% of its revenue from the production of helium, even though the helium comprises only about 2% of what comes out of the ground. They work very hard to extract that helium, so there's practically none of it left in the natural gas when it leaves the plant.

    Oh, and never mind that Helium, if any were actually present in the gasoline to begin with, would very very rapidly come out of solution and evaporate before it got from the gas pump to your gas tank.

  6. alphacheez Says:

    The mention of helium means this better be a joke. Up to that point it reads like the typical clueless reporter writing a story about something they don't understand. Who could honestly think there is helium in gasoline, let alone somehow a combustion byproduct (which seems to be implied). I imagine you could get pretty great fuel economy from a hydrogen fusion powered car though. The only thing that would give you better energy output/fuel input would be a matter/antimatter system.

  7. davidf Says:

    As Deep Throat in this article I should point out that the guy in the photograph has nothing to do with the contents of the story

  8. Joe Bloggs Says:

    As a HK resident, I remember there was an exhaust cleaning system based on water invented somewhere in these parts--simply bubble the exhaust through water to get rid of the particulates. Don't know where the fuel economy and fusion hoo-ha came in though.

  9. Daniel Rutter Says:

    I've just updated the image with a nicer version from David, with the dude-unassociated-with-the-scam removed :-).

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