This fuel pill for sure, Rocky!

I'll try to keep this brief.

A reader has brought the melodiously-titled "Shot In The Gas" to my attention.

Shot In The Gas sell fuel additives - pills, and a liquid - which are, for the usual highly implausible reasons, supposed to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, et cetera.

And, also as usual, these additives are supposed to work in both petrol and diesel engines, despite the large difference in operational principles.

Shot In The Gas's "Test Reports" page tells us that a truck achieved a massive 56% fuel-economy improvement when its fuel was treated with their liquid additive.

They say the truck was driven by a man called Brian.

And that's about all they say, as far as information about how well the test was controlled goes.

(There is, of course, also a page of testimonials. I don't see why they didn't put all of those on the Test Reports page, since they're all equally untraceable, and equally don't even pretend to be a properly controlled test.)

Apparently Shot In The Gas's products "have been tested for millions of driven miles" (emphasis theirs). But, as usual, nobody has at any point done any proper independent rolling-road, or even ad-hoc blinded, tests.

Such tests could unlock literally billions of dollars a year of income for whichever of the dozens, if not hundreds, of these miracle-fuel-additive companies actually turns out to be telling the truth.

But none of them ever do the tests.

The USA alone consumes about 380 million gallons of gasoline per day. That adds up to about a billion US dollars per day, even at the USA's low petrol prices, a bit more than $US2.50 per gallon at the moment.

If some miracle fuel additive reduced this consumption by a mere ten per cent, it'd be saving about a hundred million dollars a day, or around thirty-five billion US dollars per year.

(And this is just in the USA, and just gasoline. World petrol plus diesel consumption is of course quite a lot higher.)

But wait - Shot In The Gas have an explanation!

"This is not new technology. It has been around for 30 to 40 years". But "it wasn't cost effective to use the product until gasoline reached $2.00 a gallon".

Oooh, nice dodge!

Except... petrol has cost more than $US2 a gallon in most of the civilised world for, oh, a decade or three, right? I think petrol prices in the UK have, if you correct for inflation, never been below two US dollars per gallon. They've definitely almost never been below two inflation-adjusted UK pounds per gallon (PDF).

So even if Shot In The Gas hadn't been around to make a mountain of money in Europe for the last "30 to 40 years", one would presume someone would have.



With a site like this, it MUST be good!

When I'm looking at the Web site of a tradesman or small business, I actually take it as a good sign if the site looks like crap.

As long as it's got all the information you're looking for - often little more than basic "brochure" data - then the presence of dodgy table-based formatting, GIF animations, Comic Sans and so on just means that this particular house-painter, lawn-mower or solar-panel-installer probably hasn't spent much time or money on site design, with any luck because they were too busy doing their job.

There are, however, limits.

Allow me to present: Biomile Australia!

Ghastly Web site

Or maybe "MOTORTRONICS H20 COMPANY PTY LTD", which is one of the bits of text peeking out from behind the two large images in the middle of the screen. If you've loaded the page, you've loaded the full-size images, which are just sized down with height="320" width="240" to fit on the home page. So I urge you to click on the second one and see it in all of its Web 0.2 magnificence.

Whoever the Biomile (not to be confused with BioPerformance!) people are, they're in the miracle-fuel-additive business, with - once your eyes stop bleeding and you manage to read the page - the usual claims about economy, emissions, power and so on. And, also according to the standard fuel-pill script, they say that Biomile pills "have been tested and approved by the epa in the Usa"! (I choose to pronounce that as "by the eep-ah in the ooh-sa".)

Well, the EPA does seem to know that Biomile exist, and the EPA actually has tested quite a lot of fuel-saving power-boosting gadgets and potions. But they have never found one that works. The EPA does not, in fact, endorse fuel-saving products at all.

(I was disappointed to see that Biomile pills also do not seem to have been tested by California Environmental Engineering.)

Never mind these quibbles, though. Let's get back to that awesome Web site!

I like to browse with the text size set a bit larger than the default, which somewhat breaks the formatting of some sites. I've also only got Firefox and Chrome here, plus Internet Explorer 6 hanging around for testing purposes. So I wasn't completely confident that the stunning broken-ness of the Biomile site wasn't, at least partly, my fault.

Compare and contrast the Australian Biomile site with the US one, for instance. The US site is a giant blob of Flash, but it looks quite good. And has, you know, page titles and stuff.

So I bounced off a selection of different browsers on the immensely useful

The results are here, and they are not good.

(I did rather like Dillo's minimalist interpretation and Flock's even more minimalist one, though.)

Perhaps the Biomile Australia site is a devilishly cunning scheme to actively repel intelligent people, because they're nothing but trouble for the modern questionable-product entrepreneur.

Hmm. Probably not.

Fuel scams: An Australian tradition

Gerard Ryle is the Sydney Morning Herald journalist who did most of the work of exposing the Firepower fiasco (it was linking to Ryle's SMH articles about Firepower that got me tangled up in the whole thing).

Ryle was on the Radio National mini-show Ockham's Razor the other day; Robyn Williams called his book "riveting". (Unfortunately for Gerard's bank balance, that's Robyn Williams the Australian science journalist and host of Ockham's Razor, not Robin Williams the comedian and movie star.)

Ryle's paraphrasing his book in the Ockham's Razor piece (available as a text transcript and a less-than-15-minute podcast), but he hardly talks about Firepower at all, and isn't just trying to get you to buy the book. Instead, he gives some highlights of the long and miserable history of fuel-saving gadgets here in Australia. Even in just this one country, there have been several stops on this particular railway to nowhere.

It's not all pills, magnets and crystals, either. There's also that hardy perennial, the Miracle Engine.

Miracle Engines share with perpetual motion machines - and ordinary everyday automotive technology, come to think of it - the handy quality of being difficult for laypeople to understand. Especially if you make 'em complicated enough. There are plenty of unusual engine designs that actually do work quite well, after all; those workable engines provide useful cover under which bogus Miracle Engines can sneak up on the consumer. The Miracle Engines often don't look any less plausible to the average Joe, or even to the experienced mechanic, than a Wankel rotary - but they often don't work at all, let alone actually have the potential to revolutionise the whole field of automotive blah blah blah.

As with perpetual motion machines, Miracle Engines have been devised that contain every conceivable combination of rotors, pistons, opposed pistons, free pistons, swing pistons, shape-changing combustion chambers, exhaust turbines, planetary gears and a whole Victorian engineering textbook worth of other mechanisms and linkages.

Miracle Engines have the great advantage that, if a misguided-engineer or plain-old-scam-artist goes to the trouble of making a not-quite-working model of one, nobody can easily test his claims and show them to be bollocks. Sellers of magic fuel pills have to make sure people never actually test their products, but Miracle Engine inventors can just keep sucking up "development" money from investors and quite plausibly string said investors along, explaining that there's still a niggling little problem with the panendermic semi-boloid stator slots, but that's all that still stands in the way of the 500-horsepower 200-mile-per-gallon automobile you've been promised, and it's nothing another hundred thousand dollars can't solve!

First in Ryle's short-list of Aussie fuel-saving ventures is the essentially useless Sarich orbital engine (I was going to edit in some links from one or both of those little Wikipedia articles to the radio-show transcript, but then I detected a certain similarity between the two already, which suggests that such a reference would be circular...). The Orbital company still exists, selling a fuel-injection system that seems to have been the only part of the Sarich engine that actually worked. (Ralph Sarich himself cashed out years ago, but the legend of his engineering genius and the automotive-industry conspiracy that kept the poor man down will never die. Note that the definition of "poor man" here includes "a personal worth of several hundred million dollars". Almost makes me wish I could invent an engine that doesn't work.)

And then there was Rick Mayne's "Split-Cycle Technology", another miracle engine that amounted to nothing. Mayne had the balls to enlist Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs to help promote his technology; this sort of grand cheeky gesture seems to be common in the automotive miracle business. has been around for more than ten years now; it was promising great things in 1999, then passed to the ownership of someone unimpressed with Rick Mayne who promised a "Re-Emergence of SplitCycle Engine Technology" in 2005. But now the site is sadly reduced, to what appears to be an empty server.

(Is the Michael Papp who wrote that editorial the same Michael Papp who went on to sell "Spark EV" electric vehicles that didn't, if you want to get all nitpicky and technical about it, exist? Apparently, as of June this year, the Spark EV story was due to "get very interesting in the next month or so", and the electric cars did too exist, and all the mean kids who made fun of Michael Papp and Spark EV would be so, so sorry. As of September '09, is completely gone.)

A little bit further into Ryle's tale of woe we encounter "Save The World Air Inc", which offered a little fuel-saving nasty-emission-eliminating gizmo allegedly invented by Pro Hart, of all people.

Regular readers may remember Save The World Air from this post, in which I started out thinking that a new "electrorheology" fuel-saver idea actually didn't look like just another textbook scam, since it was plainly presented with all the information necessary for other researchers to attempt to replicate the alleged findings. But then I noticed that the gadget had been licensed to Save The World Air, which dropped it straight back into the "obvious scam" category, if you ask me. And lo, here we are a year later, and electrorheological combustion enhancement ain't changed the world yet.

Ryle couldn't do a piece like this without mentioning Aussie racing legend Peter Brock and his religious belief - maintained right up until his 2006 death in a racing accident - in the "Energy Polarizer". The Polarizer added crystals to magnets, to allegedly achieve the usual wonderful things. (The only measurable effect the Energy Polarizer ever actually had was on Brock's relationship with Holden.)

Perhaps, one day, all this nonsense will have faded away like patent medicines - but I doubt it'll happen soon. Even if we're all driving electric cars that're charged by too-cheap-to-meter solar or fusion power - or being driven around in autonomous electric cars - there'll still be carpetbaggers selling magnetic crystals that're meant to improve motor power.

With any luck, though, the sheer size of the stinking jet of bloody phlegm that sprayed all over Australia when the Firepower boil was finally lanced will at least slightly dampen enthusiasm for the next couple of fuel-pill scams.

In other Firepower-related news which I have shamelessly scraped from Gerard Ryle's blog, there's been some pleasing developments in the life of the delectable John Finnin, former Austrade official, former CEO of Firepower, et cetera.

One, the fact that this gentleman's full name is "John Cornelius Alphonsus Finnin" has become public knowledge.

And two, Finnin's been found guilty of 23 child-sex charges, and gone down for eight to twelve.

(This may or may not have something to do with the fact that Finnin brillantly decided to represent himself in court.)

I actually think eight years, followed by the usual Registered Sex Offender life-ruining, is a bit of a rough sentence for someone who's only been found guilty of having a consensual relationship with a 15-year-old rent boy. But Finnin played a big, and it seems to me obviously knowing, role in the shovelling of taxpayers' and naïve investors' money into his own, and Tim Johnston's, pockets.

So, you know, screw that guy.

(In case you were wondering, Tim Johnston himself continues to Skase it up overseas, deaf to the cries of creditors large and small.)

Another unrequested Firepower update

The major focus of attention since the collapse of magic-fuel-pill company Firepower, with which I had such fun, has been the scam artist in charge, one Tim Johnston. Tim's lavish lifestyle was as unsustainable as the rest of the Firepower debacle, so he dragged his carpet-bag full of cash off into the night some time ago.

Now, another Firepower collaborator has bobbed to the surface of the treatment pond. His name is John Finnin.

John Finnin was the guy who gave Austrade grants to Firepower. Then, as is traditional among the parasitic worms who've burrowed their way through the vital organs of the world economy for so many years, Finnin became Firepower's CEO on a $AU500,000-a-year salary, while still greasing the wheels for taxpayers' money to flow from Austrade to Firepower.

(Well, I think he greased them. It might actually have been some sort of mucus. Lab tests are ongoing.)

Shortly after golden-parachuting into Firepower, though, Finnin was accused of child sex offences, and quit the CEO job.

At the time, this was all just part of the rich tapestry of tawdry dodginess that was the Firepower saga. (After a while, I was expecting Erik Prince or L. Ron Hubbard to be involved somehow.)

Given that modern society seems to be pretty sure that inappropriately touching one small boy is a worse crime than burning down a hundred fully-occupied hospitals, I'm not crazy about the publicity that child-sex accusations always attract. If you baselessly accuse someone of having interfered with children, then even if they're found as Not Guilty as anybody ever has been, the smell of the accusation will follow them around until they die.

But wouldn't you know it - Finnin's been found guilty of a total of 23 charges, which include repeatedly molesting a 15-year-old-boy. His lawyer has courageously asserted that there's an "element of entrapment" to the case, since the boy concerned was - he says - perfectly happy with prostituting himself. That's not what entrapment means, of course, but I'm sure the court will give this argument all the consideration it deserves.

This prosecution all kicked off after some different child-sex claims, which were allegedly what caused Austrade to allow Finnin to "resign quietly and return home", and thereby stop - again, allegedly - using Australian embassy privileges to help him participate in an international child-sex ring. Austrade are adamant that they didn't actually tip Finnin off about the investigation, and that their previous internal investigation of Finnin's activities did not in fact involve a "child sex ring". Austrade just allowed Finnin to give lots of public money to a man with a previous career of fuel-pill scams who then hired him as CEO of his new fuel-pill scam. So that's all right, then.

There'd been a bit of a lull in Firepower-related news before this delectable little detail came along. Gerard Ryle, the Sydney Morning Herald journalist most likely to be depicted on Tim Johnston's dartboard, published an unassumingly-titled...

Firepower book about the company a little while ago. Ryle has been doing interviews and publishing excerpts. (He's got a blog, too. He's less than totally impressed with Austrade.)

It's possible that, a mere year and a bit after Tim Johnston skipped the country, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission will actually, finally, file criminal charges against Johnston. Don't hold your breath, though; it's got to take a while to figure out how to bust Johnston without bothering the various governmental worthies who were so proud to be associated with him a couple of years ago.

(There's been a civil case against whatever-remains-of-Firepower crawling along for more than a year now. ASIC has also awarded an eight-year ban to one of the several financial planners who told their clients Firepower shares were a great investment, when the shares weren't actually even legal to sell. The investors who ended up holding Firepower's toilet-paper shares continue, hopelessly, to try to get their money back.)

You can expect official regulatory bodies to take this long to dot all the i's and cross all the t's, and taking a while to do so certainly doesn't mean such bodies are useless. But it does serve as a reminder that you shouldn't expect the government to prevent rip-offs from being perpetrated, even large-scale and immensely audacious ones. Indeed, the bigger a scam is, the more likely it is to have some government officials actively helping it, either knowingly - as, I presume, was the case with Finnin - or as gullible marks - which I suppose the fresh-faced Stephen Moss might have been. (I bet Stephen's dad knew what was going on, though; Stephen claims he ended up being owed money by the vanished Mr Johnston, but his father cleared a 1.6-million-dollar profit when he sold the soon-to-be-bankrupt Sydney Kings to Firepower.)

The State government here in New South Wales has also recently banned four more bogus fuel-saving devices, not including the previously-mentioned Moletech thingy which is I think still technically legal to sell in NSW.

Among the now-banned gadgets are the "FuelMAX" and "Super FuelMAX", which are magnet devices, banned by the US FTC in 2005, but still apparently on sale from some Australian dealers. Then there's the "Magnoflow", another magnet, which the manufacturers say breaks down "fuel clusters" to allow more complete combustion, for a claimed "20% or more" mileage improvement. Which is of course BS, because modern engines burn 98% or more of their fuel already. The Magnoflow people seem to have given up on Australia, which is a terrible shame, since this gadget's US list price appears to be $US159 or more, but it was only $AU129 here in Australia.

Also now-banned-in-NSW is the "Prozone Fuelsaver" - which allegedly gives lucky buyers a magnet and a "catalyst"! (Astonishingly enough, the Prozone Fuelsaver never seems to have been tested by the catalyst enthusiasts at "California Environmental Engineering".)

Four down; only several dozen more to go.

In Australia alone.


The Loch Ness Carburettor

From a reader:

I was browsing the Internet and came upon this website:

You've got a interesting ability to dissect stuff and determine if it's a lot of crap or not. It seems all very dodgy to me, but interested in your thoughts.


The 200-mile-per-gallon carburettor - in this case, it's only meant to be a 100-mpg carburettor - is, obviously, one of the golden-oldie corporate myths. (Where would you even put a 200-mpg carburettor on a modern engine?)

This site is a great example of the breed; among other things, it mentions the famous (in certain circles) Charles Nelson Pogue patents from the 1930s. You can patent almost anything, of course, whether it works or not, but the fact that those patents do exist is still, frequently, used as evidence that the Pogue carburettor worked as advertised.

Because the miracle carburettor is such a classic automotive myth, there are many excellent articles about it. Here on Snopes, for instance, and here on The Straight Dope.

Tony of has a page about atomisation gadgets, too, in which he explains why no possible carburettor could work any better than fuel injectors do, as can be proven by, for instance, looking at engines that run on gaseous fuel.

(It's also been pointed out that the steady progress of automotive technology means that lots of cars on the road today actually could be 100mpg vehicles. But as engines have improved, more and more heavy safety and luxury stuff has been added. If you strip that stuff out of a modern car and perhaps add some alarming aerodynamic mods, a hundred miles per gallon is not out of the question.)

There are other things that make these supposed devices look very unlikely, too, beyond the basic objection that people have been talking about it for decades, but the Giant Car Industry Or OPEC Or Masonic Or Something Conspiracy has managed, even in this modern age of the Internet, to prevent anybody from ever even sneaking such a car into a technical-college garage for tests. (The many people who've actually tried it and been disappointed are, of course, all actually just part of the Conspiracy.)

The maximum theoretical efficiency for any heat engine, including internal-combustion engines, is equal to the absolute-temperature difference between the hot and cold ends divided by the temperature at the hot end. To put it another way, a heat engine takes a high-temperature thing and extracts some energy from it, sending whatever energy it can't extract to its heat-sinking exhaust. For an internal-combustion engine, the hot thing is the fuel burning in the cylinders and the heat-sink is the atmosphere - and, to get the calculation right, that "absolute temperature" thing means you need to use Kelvin or some other starts-at-absolute-zero scale for the temperatures.

The bigger the temperature differential, the more efficient the engine. This is why steam engines need their steam to be so very hot, and also why Smokey Yunick's Hot Vapor engine quite possibly got better mileage than even the most advanced car engines do today. Shame about that little "setting everything else in the engine bay on fire" problem.

Anyway, even if aliens have given you a perfect internal-combustion engine, its ceiling efficiency is still cappped by this calculation.

Given the combustion temperature in internal-combustion engines and typical ambient temperatures, the maximum possible thermal efficiency for an internal-combustion engine is up around seventy per cent. No real engine actually manages much more than 25%, but about 70% is the limit.

The "200 mile per gallon" carburettor is supposed to work on ordinary big dumb American engines, whose fuel-efficiency without the magic carburettor is, let's say, 25 miles per gallon. If you boost a 25-mpg engine to 200-mpg, you must have improved its thermal efficiency by a factor of 200/25, which is 8. But we can empirically calculate, by measuring combustion-chamber and exhaust temperatures, that its initial thermal efficiency is about 20%. Multiply that by 8 and you get one hundred and sixty per cent, way off the end into perpetual-motion territory.

Even if it was a really fuel-efficient engine to start with, getting 40 mpg, and you're only talking about a one-hundred-mile-per-gallon miracle carburettor, you're still improving by a factor of 2.5. This is, at least, theoretically possible - assume 20% efficiency to start with, multiply by 2.5, and you get only 50%, below the theoretical maximum. But in all the engine labs of all the world, in all the sheds and garages and universities and giant car companies, there is no evidence that anybody's ever made an internal-combustion engine that is that efficient, unless it runs at spectacularly unmanageable temperatures.

It's perfectly possible to make a car, or even a motorcycle, that contains a very very hot engine of one kind or another. But the "miracle carburettors" never say anything about that. They're just bolt-on devices for normal engines, promoted with the usual BS about making the fuel burn better or swirling it around or something. Modern engines provably burn fuel very nearly optimally, so there's not anything to actually gain there.

But the myths will never die. The miracle carburettor is like the Loch Ness Monster; no amount of scientific investigation or logical argument can ever prove it's not out there, somewhere, in the mist.

They never met a fuel catalyst they didn't like

Another of you annoying readers writes:

Dan, I would love to hear your thoughts on the merits of the "Vapor Fuel Technologies" fuel-saving tech discussed here.

I think of EETimes as a fairly reputable website, but discussion of fuel-saving gadgets seem a bit out of EETimes' area of expertise. In the article, no claim is made regarding burning fuel more completely; it seems the claim is that since combustion event occurs over a shorter period of time, that this somehow more efficient. Still, something about the claim of 30 percent better mileage just strikes me as unlikely.

Strange that the Vapor Fuel Technologies website mentions independent tests by some group called California Environmental Engineering (CEE), but they do not actually provide any formal documentation of the test procedure and results.


Yep, here we go again.

But this time I found a rabbit-hole that went a lot further than I thought it would.

The Vapor Fuel Techologies (yes, I know...) site raised its first red flag when it proudly mentioned that the company has some patents, as if that has something to do with the usefulness of the thing patented. (All a patent actually means is that the Patent Office doesn't think your idea is excessively similar to someone else's - and modern overworked Patent Offices don't even manage to do that very well. They don't check, and never have checked, to see whether a patented thing actually works, unless it's very obviously a perpetual-motion machine.)

OK, so off we go to the "Product" page to find what this awesome patented thing is meant to be, and we discover that VFT are making pretty claims not very different from those made for various fuel vaporisation, or atomisation, gadgets.

Their central claim is a bit different, though. They say that heating the air that's heading to the combustion chamber causes it to expand, so that less fuel-air mixture goes into the cylinder, and you use less fuel.

Well, OK, that may be true if you can get your engine-management computer to cope with it, but the fuel-injection system in a modern car is perfectly capable of doing the same thing all by itself, whenever you're asking for less than full power. Putting a ceiling value on the mass of air that can go in to the cylinder will, at best, just give you a car that now uses less fuel at wide open throttle (WOT), because you've reduced the "wideness" of that throttle. Now, when you put your foot to the floor, it has the same effect that putting your foot four-fifths of the way to the floor did before. A similar effect occurs when you drive on a hot day; the air is less dense and the maximum power your engine can make is, therefore, slightly lower than it'd be on a cold day.

This does not strike me as something worth paying money for. Just let your air cleaner get filthy and it'll do the same thing for free.

(Note, now that I think of it, that there's no connection I can see between Vapor Fuel Technologies and Smokey Yunick's famous-in-certain-circles "Hot Vapor" engine.)

Also from the Product page: "...improves the combustion process by increasing flame speed and creating the conditions for a chain reaction Autoignition."

My initial reaction to that was "why the hell would you want that to happen!?", because there is no reason to actually want fuel to "autoignite" in a petrol engine. If you do manage to substantially accelerate combustion, by for instance using low-octane fuel in a high-compression engine, your engine may indeed suffer from "autoignition", also known as "knock" or "detonation". That's how diesel engines work, but it's very bad for petrol engines.

Fuel burn time in petrol engines is a compromise, as explained in detail by Tony of the eponymous Guide to Fuel Saving Gadgets on his page about turbulence gadgets. There's no reason to suppose that it's just generally good to burn the fuel faster.

Elsewhere on the Vapor Fuel site they mention that the orthodox automotive industry is exploring "HCCI and Autoignition". This is true; HCCI is "homogeneous charge compression ignition" and "autoignition", in this case, means controlled autoignition, happening when you want it to and not all willy-nilly, possibly before the piston's made it to top-dead-centre.

The idea here is to make engines with diesel-like ignition and fuel economy, but conventional-spark-ignition-like emissions (instead of the characteristic "diesel smoke" that's led to some diesel cars now carrying around a little tank full of "urea-based reductant", thus instantly spawning a million jokes from people who also make jokes whenever they see the word "methane").

The idea that you can make a normal spark-ignition engine into one of these new advanced pseudo-diesel designs by just bolting on an air heater strikes me as puerile.

It doesn't matter what I think of it, of course. You can't argue with success; if it works, it works.

But the only evidence that it does work, so far as Matt and I can see, is that single test, there on the "Independent test results" page.

This, it turns out, is where the real fun is to be found.

First, that page has an odd side-swipe at "the gasoline HCCI and Autoignition efforts currently underway by others"; those engines, the test-results page says in as many words, would find it "difficult, if not impossible", to just do an EPA highway cycle test.

I presume what they meant to say was that their competitors would have difficulty achieving their claimed mileage improvement in an EPA test, but this sort of lack of attention to detail may be in some way related to the fact that the Vapor Fuel Technologies EPA test is stated as having happened almost two years ago now, and yet... still no sign of anybody else taking advantage of this amazing 30% MPG improvement. Or even a replication of the test.

Oh, but wait a minute - where was it that this test apparently took place, again?

At "California Environmental Engineering ... an EPA recognized and California Air Resources Board (CARB) certified independent test laboratory".

That name rings a bell.

That's right, regular readers - that's the same lab that said the Moletech Fuel Saver works!

California Environmental Engineering were mentioned in that mysterious disappearing Herald piece about the Moletech gizmo, and I noticed then that CEE seemed to be a bit keen on the old fuel-saving miracle products.

But I very severely underestimated how many of these talismans and potions they've tested, invariably with positive results.

On top of the marvellous yet mysterious Moletech molecular modifier, CEE are also said to have given their stamp of approval to "Microlon" (PDF), and something called the "CHr Fuel Improvement Device" (PDF), and this (PDF) hydrogen-injection thing, and this other "HHO" gadget, and the Nanotech Fuel Corporation "Emissions Reducing Reformulator" (PDF), and the "Rentar Fuel Catalyst", and the "Fuelstar fuel combustion catalyst", and the "Green Plus (liquid!) fuel catalyst", and the "Omstar D-1280X fuel conditioner", and some other "Fuel Saver" back in 2003, and the Advanced Fuel Technologies carburetor for two-strokes back in 2000, and the "Hydro-Cell Emissions Reducer" (PDF), and the Hiclone turbulence device, and the CHEC HFI Hydrogen Fuel Injection system (PDF), and some HyPower product or other (I'm not sure which, because the PDF links on HyPower's Test Results page are broken), and this "Brown's Gas" doodad, and the SV Technology "DynoValve" crankcase-ventilation thingy, and the Petrol.Net Fuel Additive (though this time CEE's test is, amusingly, mentioned on the testimonials page...), and the Hy-Drive On-Board Electrolyzer. And it goes on, and on, and on...

And yet, not a one of 'em's being fitted to, poured into or waved over cars on the production line yet, bringing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars per year to their brilliant inventors. All are still being sold over the counter to individual motorists, or being offered as this year's sure-fire investment opportunity.

People who design engines strike a balance between power, economy and driveability. An engine that lets a family car deliver 75 miles per gallon, but has power and torque curves that look like different areas of the Swiss Alps, is no use for normal automobiles.

Car companies have been tuning, balancing and refining their products for more than a hundred years. And racing engine designers have pushed pretty much every oddball modification to its screaming limits. But now we're expected to believe that Vapor Fuel Technologies have just, for the very first time, thought of deliberately heating the intake charge - you know, like a non-intercooled turbocharger, except without the boost - and discovered that doing that is good for what ails you.

And to support their claim, they show us a report from a "laboratory" that apparently never met a mileage improver it didn't like.

Pull the other one.

Empower your piston pressure!

Car-enhancing thingamajig

I am indebted to the reader who pointed me to the eBay listing for this item.

As he said, the listing really does tell you everything you need to know about it:

Car Drive Power Igniting Ignite Engine Air Power Plus


* Most Hi-Tech, Quality product;
* Power up your car engine;
* Power and smooth driving;
* Auto adjust electronic frequency system, to fasten super plugs igniting the engine accurately within the shortest time, and also to empower the piston pressure to its maximum emplosion;
* Size: 70 x 25mm (L*D)
* Weight: 70g

From the description, you'd think it was meant to be some sort of high-energy-ignition doodad. But it's got a hose barb on either end, so perhaps you're meant to put it in your fuel line.

Or maybe the windscreen-washer hose.

I'm so confused.

(The listing also says "The photos are just for illustration purposes only", which I think you'll find is the usual purpose of photos in eBay listings. But perhaps it means the thing they send you will actually plug into the cigarette lighter socket, or something.)

Compare and contrast

After reading about the utterly preposterous Magic Power System Power Shift Bar, a reader pointed this thing...


...out to me.

Regrettably, the fifty-dollar "MizerPod" will not give you more horsepower, electronically clean your car, render you invisible to radar or repel parking enforcement officers.

What it will do - when you can actually buy one, which you apparently can't quite yet - is beep at you when it detects more than slight "longitudinal acceleration" - speeding up or slowing down.

To avoid the beeps, you'll have to drive more smoothly. Drive more smoothly and you'll use less fuel. And there you go!

Regrettably, I don't see any reason to suppose that the MizerPod's "state of the art MEMS semiconductor accelerometer technology" has any way to tell the difference between acceleration and merely going up, or down, a hill. If you live in San Francisco, I presume it'd never shut up.

And real men use an Ozzy Osbourne Inertial Penalty Horn, anyway.

(Now would probably be a good time for car manufacturers to reintroduce the
good old
"economy meter", which actually just measured manifold vacuum. Modern cars have a manifold pressure meter anyway, so it could just be one more electronic gauge to make the driver feel even more like an astronaut.)

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