Dan's Data letters #201Publication date: 30-Aug-2008.
Last modified 06-Dec-2012.
Seeing as how you're the go-to guy when it comes to fuel-saving technologies, or at least warning against the many fraudulent companies out there, I was wondering if you'd cast your eye over "the Condensator" (warning: astoundingly horrible website design).
It's marketed as "a supplementary carburetor that sucks the sludge out of your engine and pre-cleans your fuel for improved performance, and longer engine life".
As far as I can tell, it's a silica gel filter placed inline with the Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) system. They claim that the unburned fuel and various other blow-by gases are filtered before being re-introduced to your intake manifold, which honestly makes a decent amount of sense.
The photos on the site certainly show SOMETHING akin to engine gunk in the collection jars, and the testimonials are full of people raving about improved gas mileage, horsepower, etc. I've even seen some advertisements referencing praise from a few local businesses who claim to have tried (and loved) this product.
I asked my mechanic and he said "yeah, they can work in certain vehicles, but you'll never see one in my car".
So, is it crap?
The generic term for devices like this is "PCV jars". The idea is that they collect and condense any oil vapour that's coming out of the Positive Crankcase Ventilation valve that any slightly modern engine ought to have. The PCV valve lets out gases from the crankcase; the gases accumulate because some vapour always leaks past the piston when each combustion chamber fires. Without some pressure-valve arrangement, the result is an unstoppable crankcase leak. Old cars that leak oil when running even when they're in tip-top condition often do so because they've got a pressurised crankcase with no place for the pressure to go but out through the gaskets.
What the PCV valve does, basically, is let the gases from the crankcase out, and re-route them to the engine's intake, to be burned. In a modern engine, the crankcase vapours should contain so little in the way of oil and other "impurities" that it'd make no difference to the engine at all if you unplugged the PCV output from the engine intake and just let it blow the gases out into the air. That'd probably violate one or another environmental law, but that'd be it.
If your engine, for whatever reason, blows a lot of oil out of the PCV valve, then hanging a glorified jam-jar off the PCV outlet to collect and condense said oil may actually have some impact on engine operation. Even more so, if the PCV output contains metal shavings or other terrible things - but if that's the case then it's probably symptomatic of a far worse problem.
Claims that a PCV jar will work wonders with any modern car in a reasonable state of tune, though, are ridiculous. The Condensator people's long list of glowing testimonials is a result of the usual factors.
People sometimes even make testimonial claims about devices like this that're completely physically impossible, like saying that before they installed the magic gadget their engine needed to turn at 3500RPM to drive at a given speed in a given gear, but now it only needs to turn at 3250! This can only, of course, actually happen if you change the ratios of the gears in the gearbox, which is a pretty impressive feat for an under-the-hood modification to achieve.
(Here's an example of exactly this claim applied to the Condensator.)
I note that the Condensator people have been selling their jam-jar for decades now, but have still, unaccountably, failed to have any reputable third party verify their lofty claims with proper dyno tests.
Interestingly, though, the US EPA has tested at least one Condensator, a diesel model that looks a bit more involved than the petrol versions. The results can be found here.
They found it slightly reduced particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide emissions. There was no statistically significant change in anything else, including fuel consumption and power.
And yes, the Condensator does indeed seem to be nothing more than a silica-gel PCV filter. Though they call it a "catalyst". I'm starting to think that the world does not contain a single fuel-saving-gadget seller who knows what the word "catalyst" means.
I'm looking to retrofit a few 2xAA mini Maglites with LEDs, but although I can find plenty of LEDs for C- and D-cell Maglites, I'm not coming up with much for the AA Maglites.
Searching your site, I found this concerning the Opalec NewBeam. But I'm not sure if Opalec even exist any more - their website is no more, and I only found one vendor.
Also, given the age of that review, I was wondering if you know of any better LED kits out there today?
Mag Instrument now make their own LED flashlights, including "upgrade modules" for their older lights, which are I think pretty decent. They have LED versions of the 2-AA and 3-AA Mini Mags as well, but you can't upgrade an old one into a new one.
There are, however, quite a lot of third-party Mini Mag upgrades, from companies that begun selling them years before Mag finally got around to making LED flashlights.
(A modern 5mm-LED upgrade lamp is likely to be quite a lot brighter for about the same power draw as an old one like the Opalec NewBeam. White LED technology has advanced a lot over the last few years.)
I actually suspect that at least some of the current Terralux and Nite Ize upgrades are the exact same products. They look very similar.
Have you ever run across high-power tight-beam red LED headlights or flashlights?
I've been looking for a while, no find.
I'm not sure about off-the-shelf products - things like red-LED Photon Lights don't qualify in the "tight beam" or "high power" departments, of course.
This should give you a moderately tight, very bright red beam, at least by the standards of pretty much any incandescent-flashlight-with-a-red-filter.
I know that you are not a lawyer, but considering that you've had experience with stupid threats before, I thought I'd try anyway!
I was selling an excerpt from the Foo Book [name changed to ward off the Evil Eye of the Foo Book's lawyers] that I had gotten for free on eBay. (The Foo Book is just a book of discount vouchers you pay for, which seems a bit daft.) Then a delightful young eBay seller by the name of "Foopub01" shot me a message:
As part of your employee or member benefits program you would have received a booklet that includes Foo Vouchers. Our company, Foo Publications of Erehwon Pty Ltd, is the publisher of this booklet and it has come to our attention that you are currently selling these vouchers on the EBay website. Please be advised that trade of the book or any of its vouchers in this manner is in direct breach of the conditions, clearly stated on each Voucher.
Foo Publications of Erehwon hereby demands that you cease such trade of the vouchers, or any part of this booklet, and remove the items from auction IMMEDIATELY. We constantly monitor websites such as eBay and other media; should you continue to trade or sell any of the contents of the book, we will have no choice but to prosecute violators to the full extent of the law.
Foo Publications of Erehwon Pty Ltd
They weren't even nice enough to tell me what conditions they were talking about, so I had a read:
"...Voucher not transferable and must be surrendered. VOID if purchased, sold, or bartered for cash."
Well regardless, being such a Nice Guy, I took the listing down, and decided instead to give the book away for free with some other things I happened to be selling.
But to the question: Can they actually enforce a condition like this? Like, I know buying a gun, shooting someone with it and then claiming that you have the right to do whatever the hell you want is a dumb idea, but reselling vouchers that were gifted to you? Its not as if they have any loss - they already received their money further up the chain.
Either way, I'm sure my generosity with the vouchers will avoid any suits smashing down my door at 3 am. But if I just knew if that was actually possible, perhaps I would be able to get some peaceful, unhaunted sleep until then.
If you hadn't taken down the auction, all they probably would actually have done is VeRO you, not take any actual legal action.
I also presume you've read my piece about threatening legal letters.
Can they actually enforce the conditions, if it ever comes to that, though?
The terms and conditions in the coupon book seem (to my non-lawyer mind...) to obviously be a "contract of adhesion", and many of those turn out to be at least partially invalid if someone ever goes to the trouble of challenging them in court.
Should you ever actually end up making a legal argument about this, its core would indeed be that the agreement doesn't apply to you, because, as you say, you're just reselling vouchers that someone previously gave you. Even if the agreement really does apply to the original purchaser, it may not apply to a person to whom the purchaser then freely gives the product. (I think Foo Publications' initial position in response might be that you're lying, and in fact did buy the coupons.)
Note that the contract probably says the purchaser can't give the coupons away, either. But I don't think that's grounds for them to come after you to do anything more than identify the evil giver-away.
Note that even if the purchase license terms clearly do not apply to you - let's say you can somehow prove that you found the coupons in the street - some sort of license terms will probably apply to whoever tries to use any of the coupons. Use of the coupons involves a whole new transaction, and I bet they'll say you can't complain if they insist you stand on one leg and bark like a dog in order to use the coupons, if you're not the one who paid for said coupons in the first place.
(By the way, on reason why many companies are so enthusiastic to make sure the rules about coupons and vouchers and rebates are followed to the letter is that, although they certainly have "already received their money further up the chain", their operations will be more profitable if people buy the coupons and then don't use them. The accounting term for this is "breakage", and attempts to make it happen are epidemic in some markets. Take rebates on consumer goods in the USA, for instance; the companies that run rebate schemes actively and plainly make the rebates as hard to actually claim as they possibly can.)
Just returned home from a business trip and since the airlines no longer provide any magazines, I flipped through the ubiquitous "SkyMall" catalog.
I was somewhat surprised to see a full-page ad for the Moletech Fuel saving device (which is on the Skymall Web site, too).
I was pretty sure you had written about this previously but could not find it on your site. One Dr Peter Dingle has reviewed it in this PDF.
Thought you'd like to see it and add it to the fake fuel-saving archives.
Yes, I have written about the Moletech, or maybe MTECH, "fuel catalyst", but on my blog, not here on dansdata.com. Here's the first post, and here and here I talk about the mysterious vanishing of a piece about the Moletech device from the Sydney Morning Herald Web site.
And then there's Doctor Dingle, who I think continues to be the single scientific voice in favour of the Moletech product. But how could you ever find him implausible?
Dr Dingle's areas of expertise aren't completely irrelevant to this field, but, as usual, you'd think a little more support from qualified people would be forthcoming for these multi-hundred-billion-dollar-per-year inventions. (If they, you know, worked.)
There's also, to be fair, apparently a report from the "California Environment Engineering Center for Environmental Research", which concluded that the Moletech device does all sorts of impressive things. The fact that this laboratory doesn't seem to be in the phone book, has no Web site, and only ever seems to be mentioned in stories about Moletech should in no way impugn their objectivity.
UPDATE: A while after this page went up, I learned a little more about California Environmental Engineering. I wholeheartedly retract my statement above that they only seem to say anything about Moletech. They actually turn out to have said very similar things about a very long list of other miracle car gadgets and potions!
I am a software engineer by trade and every now and then I get an idea which sounds plausible with my admittedly armchair level of physics and "proper" engineering knowledge.
My latest thought was the use of a sphere made of glass, plastic or some other transparent material and to put a single (or small number of) highly efficient solar cell(s) at the centre of the sphere.
It is my understanding that all light rays that enter a sphere will pass though the centre of the sphere, and thus this would naturally concentrate the light onto the cell. The other benefit would be that it will able to gather light from the sun at any angle of incidence.
Would such a system work? Or has my ignorance let me down?
An extension on the idea would to use a Stirling engine at the centre or to boil water for steam to drive a turbine.
So you're going to have to make yourself a perfectly spherical solar cell first, eh?
Regrettably, there's something that'll get in your way before you even do that: Light does not automatically focus in the middle of a solid sphere of transparent material. It just refracts when it enters the sphere and when it leaves, according to the relative refractive indices of the outside medium (in this case air) and the material from which the sphere is made (in this case presumably glass).
So let's presume you've made some other sort of light-collector that does focus all incident light onto a spot in the middle of it. Solar cells, unfortunately, have a tendency to be not only flat, but one-sided; they can't accept light from both sides, and for best results you want light to hit them perpendicular to their surface, not from an angle.
There are actually already all sorts of light concentrators that you can point at solar cells (the cells will then probably need heat-sinking behind them). But the more you concentrate the light, the more critical the aiming of the whole assembly becomes, lest the concentrated light miss the cell altogether.
Some sort of all-angles passive "fisheye lens" light concentrator might have some value, I suppose, but even that sounds optically unlikely to me.