Trial by press release

Magic fuel pill vendors Firepower have decided to deal with the gathering storm regarding their claims about major contracts that do not exist, their string of previous similar scams, the criminal connections of their principals and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission investigation of their operation by... issuing a fresh and shiny new press release!

In it, they've basically just restated their previous claims about how "the Fuel Pill showed an increase in the octane rating of fuel, thus leading to an increase in power, faster burn...", blah blah blah, which seems to me to be a fundamental misapprehension of what octane rating actually is.

I, and others, have held forth on this subject on previous occasions. It's easy to boost the octane rating of fuel by adding all sorts of substances to it, but all you get in return is the ability to use said fuel in a higher compression engine. In essence, if the fuel worked OK in your engine before, raising its octane rating will do pretty much nothing.

But fuel "improver" vendors persist in using "octane" in its generally popular sense as some sort of overall measure of the "powerfulness" of a fuel.

But the new press release goes on. It includes a quotation from one Dr Stephen Hall of the University of New South Wales, who is a real person who may or may not have wanted Firepower to quote him in support of their claims. And then it says they received an Award for "Innovation in Fuel Technology 2007" from the UK "Institute of Transport Management", who, if this is accurate, I can only surmise will be feeling like right Charlies shortly.

A longer and less cheerful version of the press release is on Firepower's site here. In that version, Firepower actually mentions the "controversy" over minor details like the fact that Firepower's business looks exactly like that of numerous former fuel pill scam artists, and the fact that Firepower's principals have run the same scam before, in New Zealand.

Among other entertaining points, the expanded press release reveals that the Firepower pill is only even claimed to increase octane ratings by "around 0.3%". In the best case scenario, you could expect such a change to make a difference in engine power of about half of one percentage point. And that's when the engine is heavily loaded; for everyday driving, the difference would be even smaller.

There's also mention of a Heating Value test in which one Firepower pill somehow managed to give sixty litres of petrol 1.09% more combustion energy. Not that this'd make any significant difference for a car either, but I'd like to see that one replicated - or just duplicated on the same equipment a few times, to see what the test rig's error margin was.

4 Responses to “Trial by press release”

  1. reyalp Says:

    Higher octane can also let you run more aggressive timing, so there is some potential benefit without going to higher compression (and some ECUs are even smart enough to adjust on they fly if they sense knocking) but even the most optimistic case the gains are going to be down in the noise.

    The real reasons ECUs do this is so you don't damage your engine if you use substandard fuel.

    In a forced-induction engine, you may also be able to run more boost, which again can be controlled by the ECU.

    None of this negates the fact that firepower is a load of crap of course.

  2. Stark Says:

    Hmm.. a quick look over the Institute of Transport Managements site shows no presence for Firepower at all. Big surprise, I know.

    Looking a little deeper at their site you find that their awards appear to be presented "bi-anuually" by which I suspect, due to the complete lack of any awards for over a year now, they meant to say biennially - as in once every 2 years instead of twice per year. If this is indeed the case, as the evidence suggets, then there is not even going to be a 2007 award as the awards were last presented on 10 November of 2006.

    So... pretty typical for Firepower I'd say.

  3. Daniel Rutter Says:

    If you search for "Innovation in Fuel Technology" and "institute of transport", you will discover that the prize that Firepower are presumably talking about turns out to actually be the "Innovation in Fuel Technology 2008 Award".

    (Suggestions about why this Institute's handing out their 2008 awards in 2007 are invited.)

    This Award appears to have been given to something called "DiesoLiFT", made by a company that calls itself International Fuel Technology, which does not obviously actually have anything to do with FirePower.

    I suppose the press-release claim from Firepower means that International Fuel Technology is another of their brands. The claims being made for the DiesoLiFT (and "GasoLiFT", and "KeroLiFT") products certainly do seem to echo the claims made for the fuel conditioners that first brought Firepower to my attention.

    All of those claims may, of course, actually make these substances worthy of an Award or three, if the claims are true. Countless dodgy awards have been given to people at trade shows in the past, though; heck, sometimes they become TV stars! Little-known awards by themselves don't mean anything.

    Were I a dark and cynical soul, I might wonder whether International Fuel Technology is what Firepower will call themselves next, when their current incarnation, like their past ones, sinks beneath the waves.

  4. Bedlam Says:

    On a slightly related note was this from yesterday.

    The precis being that with exquisite timing, given the impending election, Australia's top trade official in the Middle East at the time is claiming the government knew all about the AWB scandal.

    Oh, and by the way, he's since quit that post and become the CEO of Firepower.

    And there's that small matter of the child sex charges.

    So, good work all round, Mr Finnin!

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