A couple of weeks late, the curious Firepower organisation came good with its promise to Crikey of providing the independent documents that purportedly show its fantastic pills and potions greatly increase mileage and reduce exhaust emissions. Well, not really.

Instead of the stack of documents 30 centimetres thick indicated by CEO John Finnin, it was a much thinner file and most of it was irrelevant.

The promised tests by DEKRA and San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute weren’t about fuel efficiency and emissions, just showing Firepower’s additives didn’t change the fuel’s ratings, i.e. fuel with the additive still met engine specifications.

Which left three making fuel efficiency claims. Firepower would only allow the documents to be sighted, not copied or taken away. (Apparently Firepower is concerned that its competitors would copy the documents and change the name to their own – that’s the sort of business this magic fuel pill is.)

While Firepower won’t allow general examination of the documents, it does make some of them available to its product distributors on a restricted internal web. They’d be brave folk to make much of them.

In discussion about tests with Gary Conwell, Firepower’s Perth operations general manager, he said any general test of fuel consumption by driving a vehicle around as being of no use, it had to be done to scientific standard. One of those three remaining tests was just that – a 1997 drive around Singapore that carried an asterisk explaining a poor performance because there was a traffic jam on the Causeway.

The second test, also conducted in Singapore but back in 1994, had no meaning to me as the test specifications are not given. There’s a claimed reduction in CO2, for example, but it’s not specified over what difference or time.

Leaving just one test that might mean something, or not much. The very few pages purport to be a record of a test done on a single Volvo diesel truck provided by Firepower in a Shell laboratory in Hamburg in 2004.

Among the curious aspects of the document, the only names on it are in illegible signature and E. Meyer given as the “operator” in the details of the test.

While the test preamble talks of 1000 mile runs, the fine print indicates the “before” and “after” tests were actually run over less than 30km. It is ambiguous whether the final results are the average of three runs over that distance or just a single snap shot.

In any event, the claimed improved fuel efficiency based on the carbon in the measured exhaust gases was just 4.09 per cent.

The “after” test seems to have been about 0.2 per cent shorter, so that immediately reduces the claimed improvement to 3.9 per cent.

Is there a Crikey statistical engineer who can tell us if such a measurement means anything?

Inquiries are underway to see if Shell can shed any further light, but in the meantime, I must assume this is Firepower’s best shot. Four per cent? You can get that with a shopper docket.

On the available evidence, I’m still left with the opinion that Firepower, one of the nation’s biggest sports sponsors and certainly its strangest, doesn’t quite add up.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW