High gas prices have produced a bountiful supply of one kind of product: fuel-saving gadgets for your car.
These devices, which cost anywhere from $35 to $300, are pitched as simple ways to improve fuel economy. While not all of the devices are new, $4-a-gallon gasoline has increased consumer interest and inspired new ad campaigns -- often evoking hybrid vehicles and alternative fuels.
A kit called Water4Gas, for example, has instructions for converting your car into a "water hybrid" that uses "the atomic power of hydrogen" for less than $150. The Magnetizer offers to save fuel by rearranging the ions in your fuel line. The maker of the Fuel Saver 7000 says the $170 device boosts fuel economy by treating gasoline to a "3-stage" vaporization process.
One familiar type of fuel saver looks like a fan or turbine made of sheet metal or plastic and ranges from $35 to $65. Installed in a vehicle's air-intake system -- typically by the driver -- such products, with names like Turbonator, Spiral Max or CycloneFuelSaver, are supposed to improve fuel combustion inside engines by causing incoming air to swirl.
Another type of device works on the fuel to make it burn more efficiently. Some systems inject air, water or other vapors or liquids into the fuel mixture before it enters the engine or infuse fuel with tiny amounts of platinum. Others use heaters to expand the fuel or employ magnets attached to the fuel line to modify the fuel.
But auto industry officials and federal energy experts say most fuel-saving add-ons don't work. The Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Trade Commission have tested products that claim to boost fuel economy and found they generally don't improve vehicles' efficiency -- and they sometimes actually harm performance and increase emissions. The dozens of products tested include some air- swirling gadgets, magnetic devices and liquid-injection systems, though not specifically the FuelSaver 7000, Water4Gas, Magnetizer, Turbonator, Spiral Max or Cyclone. And drivers, beware: In some cases, installing certain devices can void cars' factory warranties.
"We have tested a range of these products and have found they generally do not improve fuel economy," says EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn.
Manufacturers of the devices stand by their products, some saying the EPA and FTC reports make negative statements that are too broad. "The high price of gasoline has brought out the best and the worst, and there are a lot of gimmicks on the market," says Roy Martin, owner of Fuel Concepts LLC, the North Royalton, Ohio, company that makes the Fuel Saver 7000. "I've read the EPA reports, and I say they're crazy. My product works," he says.
The EPA and FTC "only test the ones that don't work," says Louis H. Elwell III, chairman and president of Vortex Fluid Optimizer Corp. The Hattiesburg, Miss., company makes the Vortex Fuel Saver, a system that uses magnets to affect the fuel, air …