A family member recently sent me an email encouraging me to try a new fuel additive that claims to boost fuel economy. Because I care about this relative and care about the truth, I spent a few minutes checking out the claims of this company to see if it is really worth my time. Here’s what I wrote back:
I took your claims seriously and did a little sleuthing to see what I could find out about this fuel additive – Ultimate ME2. Here’s what I found:
- Ultimate ME2 is registered as a fuel additive with the EPA (see this website). However, all that means is that burning Ultimate ME2 does not release anything toxic in the air (at least, nothing more toxic than the gasoline it is replacing). That does not mean that the fuel additive actually improves fuel economy. (See here for the registration guidelines)
- As is typical with our government, they don’t test every new product that comes to market to ensure that what it claims is true. They do test these additives to make sure they aren’t polluting the environment but the EPA does not actually test them to see if they improve fuel economy. That isn’t really the EPA’s job. They do test fuel efficiency in cars, but not fuel efficiency of additives (see this website).
- The EPA says you have to rely on the independent testing a company does to verify their claims. Okay, I don’t think that is a very good approach given the propensity of companies to lie, but let’s check it out. I went to the website you mentioned to look into the claims of Ultimate ME2.
- The website itself reeks of a multi-level marketing scam. The biography of the company founder reads like a rags-to-riches dime store novella, not to mention he has so many initials behind his name that I’m led to believe they really do stand for B*llShit (or BS). The claims they make about their additive are highly suspicious.
- Add to that the fact that if a company really discovered a way to make fuel burn more efficiently every oil company in the world would be after their product (either to corner the market on it or to squelch it so they can keep up their profits). Given the amount of money, research, and time the big players invest in this area, do you really think a small organization like EYIwould have a leg up on the big guys? I doubt it.
- Finally, if their product is so amazing, why sell it using a multi-level marketing scheme (MLM)? Why not turn to retail or wholesale distribution?
- All of these things made me question the claims of the company. So I examined their “independent” testing data myself. I’m guessing they just made up the numbers to make this seem convincing, though I don’t know that for sure. Even if they did, they don’t know anything about statistics as the numbers don’t support their argument. Here’s the link to their “independent” test results. And here’s a link to the company they claim performed their tests (this is a really pathetic website – I wonder if they put it up themselves).
- If you look at the bottom of the .pdf file they actually have a table showing the results of their three tests. I took those results and threw them into my statistical analysis software. You see, they seem to indicate an improvement in fuel economy between the two cars, with the one using Ultimate ME2 having better fuel economy than the one that didn’t. The problem is, these results could be due to random chance fluctuations in driving conditions, that particular batch of gasoline, how the driver maneuvered the car, etc. So, I ran a simple t-test on the results and, not surprisingly, the difference between the control and experimental cars is not significantly different (mean difference=1.168, p< .586). There is a difference, yes, but three cases are not sufficient to claim what they are claiming. They would need to repeat this test with these same results probably 50 to 100 more times to convince me that the fuel additive actually works (I don’t have the time to actually do the power calculations).
- Additionally, I’m always a little skeptical about these claims because it doesn’t seem to me like they actually include the cost of the additive along with the extra amount of the additive in the fuel economy calculations. Let me explain. If you buy 10 gallons of gas at $2.85 and you get 35 miles/gallon (this is what my car gets), you are paying roughly $0.08 per mile.
- Now, add 1 pint of fuel additive. Let’s say it costs $3.50. To accurately calculate the new cost per mile you need to add the $3.50 to the $28.50 to get your new cost: $32.00. You also need to add the 1 pint of additive to the gallons of gas you purchased: 10.25 gallons. Now do the math. Buying and adding the fuel additive translates into $0.09 per mile. You’re paying a penny more per mile, which adds up on a long trip (1000 miles = $10.00). When you did your calculations, did you take this into consideration?
- Here’s where it gets really intriguing. In order to warrant using the additive, you would need to get a 13% improvement in fuel economy (that’s the difference between $0.08 and $0.09, 12.5% to be exact). In other words, if you use the additive, and it works, you are paying the exact same amount as if you did not use the additive. To actually save money, you’d need to improve fuel efficiency more than 13%.
- Ironically, Ultimate ME2 claims an improvement in efficiency of 13% – which means you’re paying the exact same amount as if you didn’t use it given its cost. I don’t know how much Ultimate ME2 costs per pint, but I just checked on a similar product at auto zone and it is actually $5.99 per pint. In that instance, it would need to improve your fuel economy by close to 20% just to pay for itself. You would need to do better than that to experience any savings.
So, what am I saying? There is no reason to believe any of the claims of EYI, the company that makes Ultimate ME2. They don’t explain how their product works and the little data they do provide (which is of questionable origin) doesn’t actually support their claims. Your better off buying the least expensive gas you can find and making sure you: (1) check your tire pressure, (2) have clean air filters, (3) change your oil regularly, (4) don’t drive fast, (5) and get as much weight out of your vehicle as possible. Fuel additives are a scam, pure and simple. Sorry, but they are.
Update 2008-07-12: Here’s a recent article from the St. Petersburg Times giving the same advice I have given here.
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