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MPG gadgets: Separating the wheat from the chaff
Posted Friday, December 30/05 in Mods & Tests
Two links of particular interest:
I was happy to come across fuelsaving.info this week. It's a level-headed shelter from the virtual storm of over-hyped additives, modifications and gadgets out there.
The site is run by a British automotive engineer who examines fuel saving claims from a very rational - not to mention educated & qualified - point of view. He debunks well-known modifications and additives apparently out of sheer irritation with the pseudoscience surrounding them. (In fact, calling some of their claims "pseudoscience" does the word a disservice.)
You know you're dealing with a level-headed guy when he openly invites critics to contact him in the case that, "either I have made a genuine error (in which case I need to fix it) or perhaps I need to explain something better." Kudos for that.
He also points out the folly of uncontrolled on-road testing or ScanGauge-derived data as "proof" of the in/effectiveness of modifications. Variability is simply too great to provide meaningful results when little or no effort is made to control for things like experimenter bias, speed, wind, grade, rates of acceleration, ambient temperature & humidity, whether the vehicle is consistently warmed, etc.
My own fuel economy testing methods are undoubtedly faulty by industrial standards - though I have attempted to only present data collected from bi-directional, back-to-back, cruise-controlled (constant speed) runs on the same long stretch of level road in calm conditions with a fully warmed vehicle, and in the absence of other traffic. I'll freely admit it's still no chassis dynamometer, but it's as close as I can reasonably get without one.
Fuelsaving.info isn't all-encompassing (nor would I expect a volunteer-built site to be), but what is covered is covered thoroughly: from fuel line magnets, to oil and/or fuel additives (e.g. acetone), to induction turbulence inducers (e.g. Turbonator), and more. There are a few other miracle cures that I would like to see covered: hydrogen generators and water injection come to mind. [Edit - Jan 6/06: hydrogen generators and water injection are in fact mentioned at fuelsaving.info. My oversight.]
My only criticism of the site is one of functionality: it needs better navigation. E.G. a menu on each page, or a breadcrumb trail, or a site map, or a prominent search box (there's one part-way down one page), or some combination of these. There's a wealth of information to be found, and it's a shame it's not as easily accessible as it could be.
[Edit - Jan 16/06: Since writing this, fuelsaving.info has been updated with much improved site navigation and a search box on every page. It's much easier to find your way around now.]
And of course I would love to read comments about (or see industrial test standards applied to) aerodynamic modifications, for example. Then again, there is a distinct lack of commercially available aero modifications to test or comment upon.
Can copper tubing, cheap magnets and wacky gimmicks really boost your mileage by as much as 300 percent? PM's Mike Allen puts the latest MPG gadgets to the test. Please step back from the truck.
Another timely debunking of several specific fuel-saving gadgets - an entertaining and edifying read.
Both of these are sites worth visiting for anyone interested in increasing efficiency (or power, for that matter) and who have ever spent money on something they hoped would achieve either. The moral from both revolves around a simple concept we learned about in grade five: the scientific method.
The only way to know for certain if something works is through a well-designed experiment. On-road, short-term, tank-to-tank testing doesn't really cut it. Seat-of-the-pants observations don't cut it. And as infectious as they may be, excited customer testimonials certainly don't cut it.
Sites like these have helped me to understand the likelihood that I threw away money on $35 platinum spark plugs, hoping they would improve mpg over my nearly-new stock plugs. And we already know what I found out about my $85 air filter.
darin AT metrompg D-O-T com, or here