Mike Stevens | Sep 11, 2008

If there's one thing that grinds my gears it's shysters flogging off products using dodgy science to produce results that you could politely call tenuous.

Take, for example, "fuel saving devices". There is a multitude of them. You've got everything from magnets on fuel lines, to vortex generators in the intake, to special pills which - it's claimed - do all kinds of whiz-bangery.

I don't know of any which can produce the claimed results under genuine independent scientific verification in controlled conditions. Most rely on testimonials from random Q public as (ahem) "proof" of functionality.

But there's a fair amount of evidence that most of these 'miracle' additives do nothing at best, and degrade performance at worst.

The most well-known "fuel saving" product in Australia is arguably the Firepower fuel pill, but not because of its performance. No, its fame comes from the tens of millions of dollars it owes creditors and the spectacular meltdown of the company and corporate high-flyers behind it.

(Firepower was wound up in the Federal Court in July owing 1200 shareholders between $80 and $100 million.)

The meltdown was "spectacular" unless, of course, you played for the now-defunct Sydney Kings, the Western Force rugby team, or are one of the multitude of other creditors (including Adelaide Crows players Mark Riciutto, Brett Burton and Wayne Carey).

They have got about as much chance of getting their money as I do of getting a road test in a Pagani Zonda.

It's about time that the government stopped nailing useless signs to anything that doesn't move, and actually did something positive to assist motorists. The NSW's Office of Fair Trading has started, announcing that they will investigate the "fuel saving" industry.

Fuel saving devices such as additives and catalysts will be the focus of an Office of Fair Trading investigation launched today by the NSW Minister for Fair Trading Linda Burney.

“With households feeling the squeeze of petrol prices, consumers may be more vulnerable to claims that they can save money by adding products to their petrol tanks or installing devices in their car,” Ms Burney said.

Ms Burney said the Government was responding to automotive industry concerns about the validity of claims by a range of manufacturers and distributors of fuel saving devices.

The organisations petitioning the Office of Fair Trading for the investigation include the IAME, the NRMA and the MTA. All companies with solid engineering or automotive backgrounds, and long histories of reputable testing and verifiable results.

These fuel-saving shenanigans have been happening for about as long as people have driven cars. Unfortunately, the general public's lack of knowledge when it comes to their cars and the mechanical principles underpinning them, allows these charlatans to con them with buzz-word bingo with dodgy science.

The Motor Report would like to join the calls for products with these types of claims attached to be investigated, and companies guilty of misleading the public to be exposed and brought to justice.

There are people, companies and scientists out there trying to find ways to improve the efficiency of the internal combustion engine and working to develop alternative fuel sources.

The con-men and shysters undermine these efforts and pull development funds away from genuine projects and product development.

And I'm not saying that it will only be some megacorporation that will come up with the break-through discovery (because there's "no way regular Joes could invent something before big business") - no, some of the best inventions came from Eureka! moments in someone's back shed, by tinkerers.

What I am saying is that if something's too good to be true, then it probably is. And if the company behind it does their best eel impersonation when asked to submit their product to independent reputable testing, then consider the possibility that the product simply doesn't do what it claims to do.

Best advice is to beware whenever anyone is quoted as saying, "Oh my gawd, this is the best thing ever made! Buy it!" You can translate that as, "This is as useful as baking flour in your petrol tank, don't, whatever you do, waste your money on it."

[Office of Fair Trading NSW]

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