“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Another foolish "fuel saving" gadget

As I've mentioned previously, I frequently listen to SirisuXM RadioClassics. This particular channel has advertising on the half-hour. I was listening the other day and heard an ad for the "Platinum 22," which promised dramatic increases in gasoline mileage. The product comes from National Fuelsaver.

Upon checking, I found that this concept has been around for decades and its idea is that huge amounts of gasoline are not burned in the cylinders of an internal combustion engine. The spiel continues that the purpose of a catalytic converter is to utilize a platinum catalyst to burn this fuel after it leaves the engine. The Platinum 22 claims to inject microscopic amounts of platinum through the vacuum system into the cylinders, and thus to catalyze much more complete oxidation of fuel in the cylinders.

The "22" comes from a claim that, in a typical engine, only 68% of the hydrocarbon fuel is oxidized (!) and the Platinum 22 boosts this to 90%, a 22% increase. Never mind that this is actually a 32% increase. There is a huge variety of other specious claims of, for example, non-existant government agencies having run tests to verify that the product works as claimed, etc. A  look here at an EPA report debunks this claim (refer to No. 7, "Conclusion").

A complete debunking of the concept is available here, by a Tony (last name unknown), a UK "Chartered Engineer" who has worked in the automotive industry for Land Rover, BMW, Bosch, and others. His site should be your first stop when you hear about a miraculous fuel saving device. Suffice it to say that, rather than 22%, more like 2% of the fuel entering an engine is not oxidized. Evidence of this is presented in the linked page.

Among other things, Tony points out that if the catalytic converter in the exhaust (not using the Platinum 22) were to be burning 22% of the fuel from the tank, almost one third (22/68) as much heat would need to be dissipated from the converter as that from burning fuel in the engine. Note that the engine uses a complex system of water jackets, a water pump, and a large heat exchanger (the radiator) to dissipate the heat from fuel burned in the engine. That 32% as much heat could conceivably be dissipated by the catalytic converter, which is without any cooling system, is completely out of the question.

It's disappointing to me that SiriusXM allows such pixie dust to be advertised.

Update: I sent the following to SiriusXM, we'll see what happens.

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