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Beware of dubious fuel savers

Consumers need to tread with caution because experts say that many of these fuel saving devices work only for a short period and the savings from them is not very significant, writes Pushpa Girimaji.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2008 22:13 IST

When oil prices go up, people want to find ways to reduce their fuel bill without cutting down on travel or sacrificing the petrol guzzlers that they drive. That's when they start looking at all those devices that promise to make vehicles fuel efficient. Already, the Internet is full of websites promoting gadgets, fuel saver liquids or mixtures, fuel saver ceramics and fuel line magnets!

And they all promise to bring down fuel consumption from anywhere between 15 per cent to as much as 27 per cent. Some of them even offer a free 60-day money-back trial.

The concept is not new. There have been many such devices in the past. In fact 12 years ago (in 1996), the consumer court in Karnataka had awarded compensation to 13 owners of two-wheelers, on their complaint that the manufacturer and retailer of one such device- Jensher 2000- had falsely claimed a saving of petrol up to 22 per cent. However, when fitted to their vehicles, they found some improvement in the mileage only initially, but subsequently this came down and ultimately, the device adversely affected the vehicle’s engine. The Karnataka Regional Engineering College, which tested the device on the directions of the court, had said that the improvement in mileage was only 8 per cent.

It's possible that there have been improvements in these devices now or there could be newer ideas. After all, necessity is the mother of all inventions and higher the oil price, greater the need to conserve energy. But consumers need to tread with caution because experts say that many of these devices work (if at all they work) only for a short period and the savings from them is not very significant. Some may even damage a car's engine or increase its exhaust emissions. Interestingly, some of the devices on the Internet claim that they have been registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or tested by the EPA, giving the gadgets certain authenticity.

If you check on the EPA website, it clarifies that it does test or evaluate at the instance of the fabricator or the manufacturer the after-market gas saving products. However, there is no approval, certification, endorsement nor registration of any product tested in this programme, the EPA says. In fact in 2006, an EPA spokesperson had said that they had tested over 100 such products but found that they didn't really work.

Borneo Post recently quoted a Malaysian auto expert, Azhar Abdul Aziz, who tested many such devices, as saying that most such products were not significantly effective and had very limited utility or life span. His advice to consumers was that they should demand scientific evidence of proven value before buying such gadgets. Results vary from country to country and depend on various factors. I think his advice is sane.

Pushpa Girimaji is Senior journalist, consumer affairs specialist.