Big, flashy web page. Graphics and embedded videos. And not only testimonials, but actual Lab Results!!!
The How It Works web page sounds awfully dodgy to me, though, and the FAQ page makes me even more skeptical. On the other hand, they go to great lengths to differentiate themselves from being just another engine cleaner, and give myriad details about how to properly do testing so you can see the results for yourself. Also, the information given in their “EPA & CARB certified Lab Results” page is big on scientific rigor, discussing the need for consistent baseline runs and blind testing so the driving habits do not affect the outcome. (Of course, it could all be made-up hooey, but that’s the chance we take.)
Point is, they sound good. And the product is being sold by Canadian Tire, a very large Canadian retail outlet.
(Canadian Tire is an institution in Canada. They are a Wal-Mart like store, but have been around for some 90 years. For 50 years have a ’store loyalty’ program called Canadian Tire money, where some small percentage of your purchase is refunded to you in Canadian Tire Money. This ‘money’ is of *very* high quality; it is, in fact, better (better paper and ink, stronger security measures) than the national currency of some countries I have travelled. It is gladly accepted by charities, frequently given in larger denominations as wedding gifts, and is often used as a sort of alternate currency, trading at par among friends or even friendly strangers. Thus endeth the lesson.)
Anyway, since Canadian Tire is endorsing the stuff, I expect that many folks are going to be trying it. I know you have seen many scams of this nature, so I beseech you to train your skeptical and knowledgeable eyes on this potential snake-oil from the Great White North.
Yeah, here we go again.
This outfit does indeed have a better spiel than most fuel-additive sellers, but there on their How It Works page is the usual claptrap about raising octane rating.
Raising a fuel’s octane rating above what an engine’s compression ratio and ignition timing requires will, for an absolute certainty, do nothing at all, and certainly not improve an “incomplete burn”, a concept which the Eco Fuel Saver people also share with dozens, if not hundreds, of other fuel-additive companies.
Modern engines all burn very very nearly all of the fuel, or else they fail emission testing and/or set the catalytic converter on fire.
This post has been sitting on my to-do pile for rather a while; when I first replied to Shane I observed that the “Gasoline” test-results document said that the tests were done in 2006. And here we were, years later, and this hundred-billion-dollar product was still being sold over the counter to individual motorists. On account, perhaps, of a Conspiracy.
Now they’ve got documents from 2011 on the lab-results page, though, and all they say is that their additive doesn’t ruin the fuel, and in fact changes it in almost no way at all. Then, puzzled, you might try their “Results” page instead, but all you’ll find there is a list of variably plausible excuses for the additive doing nothing noticeable. But don’t be fooled - Eco Fuel Saver will “increase BTU, octane and lubricity in your fuel”, so never mind our own PDF test results that proudly indicate an octane change, for instance, of less than half of one per cent, and the fact that even a large octane increase makes no difference unless your current fuel is causing knock or making your fancy computer-controlled engine retard its spark; just clap your hands, children, and wait for Tinkerbell.
I could dig further into this, but it’s like investigating every new prophecy of the end of the world or dude who reckons he’s channelling a million-year-old alien, yet is mysteriously unable to even tell you pi to ten significant digits, let alone anything of scientific interest that millions of human high-schoolers don’t already know.
It’s up to the makers of all of these products to demonstrate the value of their incredibly valuable, if true, claims. It’s not up to us to sort through the numerous claimants and their countless claims to see whether perhaps, this time, the magical mileage elixir or perpetual-motion machine is real.
The fact that Canadian Tire sell this product indicates, I think, that Canadian Tire reckon people will buy it. Similarly, Wal-Mart sells those magical “Power Balance” wrist bands (and several similar products, not to mention a particularly spiffy-looking magical engine potion).
And just about every pharmacy sells homeopathic remedies (as does Walmart!). And so on, and so forth.
But in his favor he's got an actual physical prototype...
...and is attempting to have a metal model made so its input and output power can be tested.
What do you think of the concept, and can you tell how on earth it works? I'm still trying to figure out how this is too different from CVT, other than maybe a wider range.
I'm still wondering if this is somehow impossible, but personally I'm open to the possibility that it's a similar step such as CVT and the in-article claims are typical science-journalism overestimations.
Fortunately, though, an infinitely-variable transmission (IVT) is not actually in any way related to perpetual motion. All it is, is a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that has some way to run its variable "gear ratio" all the way down to infinity-to-one, also known as a "driven neutral".
(This is, by the way, not the same as just running the gear ratio up so much, billions or trillions to one, that the final gear in the train is functionally immobile, and could be embedded in concrete without having any effect on the load of the driving motor for some years. A true "driven neutral" could be driven at a trillion RPM for eleventy frajillion years, and never turn the output at all. A transmission that bottoms out at zillion-to-one gearing would, however, be perfectly usable as a real-world infinitely-variable transmission.)
Because it can gear down to infinity-to-one, this does indeed mean that this transmission doesn't need a clutch, which does indeed reduce complexity. Whether a real-world version of the D-Drive would be too big or too heavy or inadequate in some other more complex way for real-world duty, though, I don't know. But there's nothing crackpot-y about the basic idea.
As the video makes clear, the big deal here is making an IVT - actually, a mere CVT, that still needed a clutch, would do - that uses standard gearbox-y sorts of components, or can in some other way handle lots of power and torque without being unmanageably big, expensive and/or quick to wear out.
Normal CVTs have been available in low-torque machinery like motor-scooters for some time, and are now showing up in some mainstream, full-sized cars as well. But they're still a fair distance from ideal.
It's easy to make a CVT, you see. Here's one made out of Lego. It's hard to make a CVT that can handle lots of power. And yes, the fact that most CVTs contain some sort of friction-drive device is a big part of the reason for this.
Note, however, that there's a big difference between dynamic-friction CVTs like this one or the Lego one, in which friction between moving parts transfers power, and static-friction CVTs like this one, in which friction locks components together (as in a clutch!), and they don't wear against each other.
But even here, real-world elements muddy the water and make it hard for someone who doesn't actually work at the engineering coalface to tell whether they're looking at something genuinely new and useful, or something that's not new at all, and/or won't work. Here, for instance, is the NuVinci transmission, a friction-based CVT that spreads the friction stress between numerous relatively lightly-clamped spheres - it's related to the "ball differential" with which R/C car racers are familiar. The NuVinci's makers claim it's useful for high-power, high-torque applications. And maybe they're right. I don't know.
For an excellent example of the ugliness that can happen when somewhat specialised knowledge is repurposed by people who, at best, don't know what they're talking about, look at this particular piece of "water-powered car" nonsense, where the well-known-to-jewelers electric oxyhydrogen torch is claimed to be some sort of incredible over-unity breakthrough. This sort of thing happens all the time - it's just, usually, not quite such a blatant scam.
As the Gizmag article mentions, many commercial CVTs are also deliberately hobbled by car manufacturers. They force the transmission to stick to only a few distinct ratios, and also to want to creep forward when at rest, just like a normal automatic transmission. This isn't a limitation of existing CVT technology, though; it's just deliberately bad implementations of it.
(The manufacturers do this so that people who're used to normal autos won't be freaked out by a CVT. Those of us who'd like the superior technology we pay for to be allowed to actually be superior just throw up our hands, and cross those cars off the worth-buying list.)
I think one trap for the D-Drive could be the second motor that handles the ratio-changing - that might need to spin really, really fast in certain circumstances.
There's also the fact that this is only really an infinitely-variable transmission at one end of the ratio scale. The D-Drive can gear down an infinite amount, and right on through zero to negative (reverse) ratios. But unless I'm missing something, I don't think it can gear up at all. So the output shaft can't ever turn faster than the input shaft. This is a problem if you want to do low-power flat-highway cruising, when the engine's turning quite slowly but the wheels are turning very fast.
Normal cars have significant gear reduction in the differential, though - the "final drive ratio". Perhaps if you make the diff a 1:1 device, which shouldn't make it that much bigger, the D-Drive's output-ratio limitation won't matter.
The reason why I'm saying "might" and "perhaps" so often is that I, like the New Inventors judges, am not actually an expert on the very large number of mechanisms that the human race has invented over the centuries. The simplicity of the D-Drive makes me particularly suspicious. The D-Drive's mode of operation may be a little difficult for people who don't work with mechanisms all day to intuitively grasp, but there aren't many components in there, and none of them are under 100 years old. Actually, that's probably a considerable understatement; I'm not sure when epicyclic gearing became common knowledge among cunning artificers, but I can't help but suspect that a master clockmaker in 1650 wouldn't find any of the D-Drive's components surprising.
Sometimes someone really does invent some quite simple mechanical device, like the D-Drive, that nobody thought of before. But overwhelmingly more often, modern inventors just accidentally re-invent something that was old when James Watt used it.
To get an idea of the diversity of mechanical movements and mechanisms, I suggest you check out one of several long-out-of-copyright books full of the darn things. I think Henry T Brown's 507 Mechanical Movements, Mechanisms and Devices is the most straightforward introduction; it's a slim volume available for free from archive.org here.
(If you'd like a paper edition, which I assure you makes excellent toilet reading, you can get the one I have for eight US bucks from Amazon. Here's a version of it for four dollars.)
And then there's Gardner Dexter Hiscox's Mechanical movements, powers, devices, and appliances, whose full title would take a couple more paragraphs, which is also available for free.
Both of those books carry publication dates in the early twentieth century, but many of the mechanisms in them were already very, very old. Like, "older than metalworking" old. But several of them are still, today, unknown to practically everybody who's not able to give an impromptu lecture about the complementary merits of the cycloidal and Harmonic drives.
(You may, by the way, notice rather a lot of mechanisms in those old books that do the work of a crank. That's because one James Pickardpatented the crank in 1780 - plus ça change. This forced James Watt, and many other early-Age-Of-Steam engineers, to find variably practical Heath-Robinson alternatives to that most elegant of mechanisms to get the power of their pistons to bloody turn something. Watt's colleague William Murdoch came up with a kind of basic planetary gearing to replace the crank. Planetary gears have, in the intervening 230-odd years, found countless applications - including the D-Drive!)
Getting back to Mr Durnin and The New Inventors, they both currently allege that the D-Drive is a "completely new method of utilising the forces generated in a gearbox". According to this Metafilter commenter and this patent application, that may not actually be the case, since 18 of the 19 formal Claims made in the application appear to have been turned down. But, again, I could be getting this wrong, because somewhere behind the impenetrable thicket of legalese I suspect the "Written Opinion" may be saying that the final Claim actually is patentable as a separate worthwhile thing. (See also this forum thread.)
This all has me thinking, again, about the repeatedly-demonstrated gullibility of The New Inventors. When I can bring myself to watch the show, I keep thinking - OK, actually sometimes shouting - about how I'd spoil the party by asking at least one out of every four inventors "would you be willing to make a small wager that your device is not fundamentally worthless, or a duplicate of something that's been in production for years?"
(Sometimes, I'd just say "Have you always dreamed of being a rip-off artist, or is it a recent career development?")
The New Inventors seem to not have much of a peer-review system to keep the show free of crackpots, scammers and ignorant inventors who're unaware that their baby was independently invented in 1775. Or maybe there's just a shortage of interesting inventions, like unto Atomic magazine's shortage of interesting letters, so they let even the dodgy ones onto the show as long as they look impressive.
Perhaps the people on the judging panel just studiously avoid saying anything that might attract legal action from an inventor outraged that someone dared to point out that his magic spark plugs strongly resemble 87 previous magic spark plugs out of which the magic appeared to leak rather quickly.
It doesn't even take a lot of searching to find other IVTs. Here's one that, like the D-Drive, has no friction (or hydraulic) components. Its highest input-to-output gear ratio is quoted as "five to one", which is weirdly low; perhaps it's meant to be the other way around.
I hope, I really do hope, that the D-Drive turns out to be a proper new and useful device. We can always use another one of those.
But I remain very unconvinced that something this simple, aiming to do this straightforward a task, really is useful, let alone new.
To summarise: The D-Drive does not remove all friction components from the drivetrain, because it can only ever be a part of that drivetrain, and needs supporting stuff that'll probably need friction components. And yes, it would need a motor just as powerful as the "main" one to drive the control shaft.
And Steve Durnin is apparently proud of independently coming up with a system similar to Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive "Power Split Device". I must be missing something, there, seeing as if this is the case then the D-Drive probably isn't patentable, and probably wouldn't even be particularly marketable.
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.
"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.
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 Sansand 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.
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”.)
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 biomileaustralia.com off a selection of different browsers on the immensely useful Browsershots.org.
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.
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 Sarichorbital 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 RobberRonnie Biggs to help promote his technology; this sort of grand cheeky gesture seems to be common in the automotive miracle business.
Splitcycle.com.au 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 splitcycle.com.au 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, spark-ev.com 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.
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.)
The major focus of attention since the collapse of magic-fuel-pill company Firepower, with which I had suchfun, 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 Austradegrants to Firepower. Then, as is traditional among the parasitic worms who’ve burrowedtheirway 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.
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…
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.)
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.
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.
Tony of fuelsaving.info 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 aerodynamicmods, 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.)
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.
(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.)