Firepower's "results"!

And now, on to the "results" which Stephen Moss, the sue-happy CEO of Firepower, has commanded me to publicise, on pain of being sued for defamation.

Those results were presented in a generously proportioned PDF file which he attached to his threatening letter. He told me to make it available for download, and at no point did he complain about the fact that I did so - but apparently some OTHER person from Firepower decided to threaten Blogsome (not me, my blog hosts - classy!) with legal action for doing what the CEO told me to do, so now you'll find no link to the file here.

(If only I had some other Web site on which you might find more information about this...)

The PDF, mildly hilariously, has a line on the bottom of every page telling you it was created with the unregistered version of deskPDF PDF Writer, a piece of software which costs only $US19.95 to register.

I remind you that Stephen Moss is a fellow currently depicted on as putting a fuel pill in "his" 2007 Rolls Royce Phantom LWB, a vehicle which costs $AU1,095,000 here in Australia, or 49,130 times as much as a registered copy of deskPDF.


Aaaanyway, on to the Results!

Page 9 of the PDF alleges that the Firepower treatments actually did slightly raise the octane number of some fuel. This makes no difference whatsoever, unless you've got a car that changes its ignition timing when it's running on higher-octane fuel, in which case you should just be buying high-octane fuel in the first place. The Firepower treatments didn't manage to increase octane numbers by nearly enough to turn cheaper lower-octane fuel into the more expensive stuff, anyway.

(You can raise a fuel's octane count by adding all sorts of substances to it. I write about this in more detail in this post.)

Page 10 of the PDF contains a statement from a German laboratory that says Firepower additives did not do fuel any harm they could notice, and goes on to specifically state that it's making no claims about fuel consumption or engine life.

Page 13 claims that the "Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research" found that Firepower treatments massively reduced all kinds of engine emissions, by (according to page 12) greatly reducing fuel consumption.

These results, if correct, make Firepower products far and away the greatest breakthrough in automotive science of the last twenty years, at least. Maybe the last fifty.

But since there is, yet again, not the slightest clue as to who at the abovementioned Institute did the tests, when, and how, and since Firepower have previously admitted that when they said tests were done "by Volvo" what they actually meant was they were done, um, on Volvo trucks (that result gets one line on page 25 of the PDF!), I remain unconvinced.

Honestly - giant fuel economy differences like this are the sort of thing you could test in any technical college. You could just send a free tube of fuel pills to every TAFE in Australia that has an engine on a test stand, and within a month you'd be sitting on a pile of beautiful replicated results that you could take to Toyota or whoever.

Even if Firepower's additives only turned out to reduce world oil consumption by 10% - an easy feat, you'd think, given the much larger improvements shown in many of their testimonials - that'd save something in the order of nine million barrels of oil per day.

At current oil prices, that's more than eight hundred million US dollars.

Per day.

And yet Firepower are still messing around with photocopies of photocopies from some guy in Oman, and sending lawsuit threats to some bloke with a blog who dares to wonder why they seem so interested in selling fuel pills in packs of ten to individual motorists, and so uninterested in grabbing their entirely fair half share of the $US300 billion per year they could easily be saving the world.

Fuel-pill companies, of course, always do this. They make their florid claims, they allude to lab tests the details of which are apparently secret, they say that testimonials are all the evidence they need, and they sell to whoever'll believe the flimsy evidence they offer, rather than putting together proper evidence and becoming richer than Queen Elizabeth.

Every time, they do this. Over and over. For the last hundred years, if not longer.

(They often come up with a conspiracy theory, too. I don't think Firepower have done this yet, but give 'em time.)

But let's get back to the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research (SISIR) report on Firepower's products.

When do you suppose that test was done?

Well, I can only suppose it was done before 1996, because that's when SISIR ceased to exist. But don't worry - I can totally see how those sloppy, unorganised Singaporeans might have still been publishing research reports on old letterhead a decade later.

Or was the SISIR report, perhaps, used as supporting evidence for one of the Firepower principal's several previous fuel additive companies, all of which made much the same claims but none of which, all the way back to the early 1990s, have amounted to anything?

I'm speculating, here, but that's what you have to do when all you're given is a big happy bar graph and the name of an institution that hasn't existed for almost 12 years.

Page 14 of the PDF starts a long series of accounts of alleged fuel economy and emissions improvements, sometimes presented as bald claims with no tracking information at all (apparently Firepower products did great things for "Railways, Minsk" in March 2006...), sometimes as anecdotes that are at least on someone's letterhead with a signature, and with the occasional "this additive didn't mess up the fuel" certificate thrown in for spice.

Some of these accounts do at least allege that some sort of proper drive cycle test has been done.

On page 15, there's a test allegedly by the Russian Ministry of Defence, saying a Firepower product worked on a T72 tank, with what looks like some sort of controlled test. Page 16 says someone called Professor Evgeny Kossov of the Research Institute of the Russian Railways found considerable improvements in a long-term test, which at least could have been properly controlled, on one locomotive. And then page 18 has a signed testimonial from someone in Oman attesting to massive fuel savings in a generator, with a description of what would be a controlled test if it were actually done, and if nobody cheated, and if the meters all worked right - but what am I going to do, call Hamed Salim Al-Magdheri's mother and ask her if her son's prone to lying?

And then, on page 21, there's a testimonial, dated November 1999, from a Lieutenant Colonel in the New Zealand Army. It's a bit funny that they left that in, since the New Zealand military is one of several major organisations which has said they actually have no record of ever having any connection or contracts with Firepower.

I suppose some bloke in the Army might have bought some fuel treatment stuff himself and formed the opinion that it worked without telling anyone else - but many thousands of people have done the same thing over the years with many hundreds of other fuel treatments, none of which turned out to actually work. So all this adds up to is yet another scienceless testimonial.

(The other companies that denied connections with Firepower were Caltex/Ampol, BP, General Motors and the Australian military, none of whom are mentioned in the "results"... any more.)

On page 22, I thought that someone who glories in the name Calliope Sofianopoulos (and is a translator, by trade) claimed that Firepower products significantly improved the fuel consumption and exhaust gas composition of three taxis.

I was wrong, though - as Calliope points out in the comments, below! She actually just translated that document, and the geniuses at Firepower decided to uphold their reputation for fanatical devotion to accuracy by just scanning the translation, complete with her letterhead, and sticking it into the middle of their Results File.

Who actually did the taxi tests? Who knows?

We have names for three Greek taxi drivers and the make and model of their cars, and we've got magnificent fuel-consumption and emissions numbers. But that's all. The actual testers remain a mystery.

Did the anonymous testers do drive cycle tests to validate the fuel consumption figures? 'Course not. Why should they? But if they haven't, then nobody should use the results as evidence that the product works, because it is not in fact anything of the sort.

On page 23, some organisation called "Labtest Hong Kong" apparently also thought that just driving a car around was an adequate test, which I really must repeat yet again it is not, even if the test is blinded so the driver doesn't know when you've added the supposed fuel enhancer. That did not appear to be the case for this test, which raises some questions in my mind about what kind of "lab" that joint actually is.

Then there's one from the Philippines on page 29 that has an actual static test of a truck as well as the usual useless driving around, and claims a 16.43% fuel economy improvement - though they for some reason tested it with the engine idling, which doesn't strike me as very useful. I suppose we've got to take what we can get, though.

And on it goes. But who knows what any of these tests, even the better-looking ones, actually are?

I know I'm not going to call Directory Assistance in six countries to try to find the people apparently associated with the higher-quality tests and grill them about what they really did. Firepower should be the ones presenting multiple proper tests from clearly identified and readily contactable authorities. And they shouldn't be presenting them to me; they should be presenting them to all of those big fuel and car companies with whom they said they had such impressive deals.

If you've got a super fuel additive that does the things Firepower's stuff is supposed to do, and if you've got enough money to sponsor sports teams and show off a million-dollar Roller, then obviously you've got enough money to get proper tests done by proper, respected, well-known organisations - in Australia, I'd start with the NRMA and the RACV. And then blammo, billions of dollars are yours.

But Firepower are not, of course, going to do that. Because Firepower are just the latest in a very long line of companies making stuff to put in your fuel that... doesn't really do anything.

They say the exact same things as many of their forebears.

I mean, look at page 5 of the PDF. It says "when the fuel is burned in the combustion chamber not all of the fuel is used and a proportion goes out the exhaust...".

This is true, and a frequently-heard claim from fuel additive manufacturers. But the actual unburnt fuel fraction for a modern engine is 2%, at the very most.

So there's almost nothing to be gained there.

Apparently the Firepower products work "by burning more of the heavier elements of your fuel, increasing power and fuel economy". But this is impossible; if any significant fuel energy were actually left in the exhaust from a normal engine, it would either burn the car's catalytic converter off in very short order, or cause the car to miserably fail any modern emissions test. Firepower claim fuel economy gains of well over 10%; well over 20%, in some of the testimonials. But the only mechanism they provide by which this can happen can give you only a couple of percentage points, and probably less.

Fuel additive companies always take advantage of people's vague knowledge that engines are only thirty-something per cent efficient, and use it to make people think that sixty-something per cent of the fuel energy is readily recoverable, because the fuel isn't burning completely, or fast enough, or in the right pattern, or something.

Engines are actually so inefficient because, although the fuel burns very completely, there are inescapable thermodynamic reasons for lots of the resultant energy to be lost as heat. In brief, unless you make an internal combustion engine that runs a lot hotter, you can't make one that's a lot more efficient.

There have, as I said, been many "fuel pill" products before, one of which was, I remind you, actually sold by the same guy who's the chairman of Firepower now. The case study of the discredited BioPerformance Gas Pill on Tony's fuel saving gadget site (to which I have been linking rather a lot, lately...) is informative, here; it appears to be very similar to the Firepower pill in composition, claims-made and backing evidence.

If Firepower want people to take them seriously, it seems to me that they should have proper independent tests done on their supposedly miraculous technologies, rather than just touting all of the contracts they've supposedly signed with people who haven't necessarily done any more due diligence than have Firepower themselves.

If Firepower substantiate their claims with proper tests, I'll be the first to recant my skepticism and sing their praises. And buy the pills, too - though I imagine they'll be in short supply for a while, what with every motorist on earth being eager to get hold of them.

While Firepower insist on acting exactly like a long line of previous fuel-pill hucksters who turned out to be selling worthless products, though, I cannot in good conscience treat them any other way. No matter how much they threaten me.

7 Responses to “Firepower's "results"!”

  1. sockatume Says:

    My favourite part is the first page (not counting the cover) where they repeat the same set of bullet points twice. I'm guessing that they're too busy counting their gigantic sacks of cash to hire a PR department, and just cook up these documents themselves when they get pissed off at people in the internets. Serious business.

  2. captin_nod Says:

    That's a superb deconstruction of their 'results' - looks like this is leading to the kind of scathing press coverage that they weren't exactly looking for :)

  3. nmr8 Says:

    you're my favorite

  4. phase3 Says:

    another highly dubious thing - page 22 has WATA using Toyota Coronas - these cars were never sold in Australia except from a very small number of grey importers. With the sort of discounts car companies give to fleets, there's no way any company would be buying 2nd hand grey imports for their fleet...

  5. translation Says:

    Quote: On page 22, someone who glories in the name Calliope Sofianopoulos (and is a translator, by trade) claims that Firepower products significantly improved the fuel consumption and exhaust gas composition of three taxis."

    Sorry to break the news but this particular translator by profession translated the specific documents into English.

    Since this story has appeared people Google my name and have it associated with the word "Psychopath". Not much fun! I am a professional who merely translates any document assigned to me. Do not have a clue what Firepower is nor do I make claims for or against it. However I do glory in my name.

    I would appreciate any rectification possible in that respect. Please delete any mention to my name or change the sentence to read that Calliope Sofianopoulos is the translator.

    Thanks in advance,

  6. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Sorry about that, Calliope! I thought they were saying the tests were done by you, because your translation was just scanned, complete with letterhead, and thrown into the document along with the rest. (And, frankly, having fuel-additive tests done by a professional translator would have been pretty much on par for Firepower's scientific rigour!)

    I've amended the post to make this clear.

  7. translation Says:

    Thanks, Daniel. I appreciate it.

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