Years ago, I had a good time debunking one of those stick-it-in-your-cigarette-lighter-to-save-gas doohickies, the Fuel Shark, and then did it again when they demanded an apology. These things are absolute scams, and I kind of thought they’d have died out by now. I was wrong. A reader sent me a link to the same thing, now called FuelSave™, and it’s the same bullshit. Maybe even more, because this one claims they used the “tech” to drive an old Beetle 2,096 miles on a tank of gas.
I have an old Beetle, and while it’s good on gas, you’d need a Beetle with a gas tank about eight times the usual size to pull that off. Also interesting is that when I initially tested the near-identical Fuel Shark, I actually did use an old Beetle, too.
See? This was my test rig:
And on my Beetle, the FuelShark proved to be bullshit. Just like this thing is.
For funsies, let’s look at this stupid website. Here’s what that first big claim says (misspellings included):
At First, No One Believed this old Bettle could travel 2,096 miles on a single tank
This genius college kid finally reveals the secret behind the world record-breaking Old VW Bettle that was modified by a bunch of 19 years old students after he approached them.
He and this group of students gained worldwide attention with their Old Volkswagen Bettle which has exceeded what the car is supposed to perform which is they tuned the 1969 VW Bettle to travel up 2096 miles on a single tank of fuel, they managed to drove from Pittsburgh to Atlantic City without stopping for gas.
This solution allowed a lot of people to save a lot of fuel and extend the car’s longevity.
He calls it the ‘Petrol Smahser’.
In that screenshot there, that’s not a 1969 Beetle. Looks like a ‘62. And I’m also pretty sure that’s not what the route from Pittsburgh to Atlantic City looks like though I admit, it’s been a while since I made that drive. Maybe it’s a barren wasteland now. But even if it was, the distance between those two cities is only about 365 miles.
It’s not just horseshit, it’s sloppy, lazy horseshit.
The website I was sent by a reader named Peter is so absurdly, hilariously bad that it’s hard to imagine anyone would be taken in by it. But, sadly, people are. People believe all manner of idiotic things, and this stupid, scammy site, with its multiple obvious misspellings and complete lack of any verification, is very possibly convincing some poor, gullible grandmas out there to spend hard-earned money on what is essentially an LED that sticks out of a hole in your dashboard.
This site is a little more interesting than the usual FuelShark-selling sites because it’s set up with a weird little narrative about how child-genius Percy Belson (who may be one of those AI-generated photo people) came up with this concept, refined it at some college, demonstrated it on that old Beetle, then some fake, Google-image-searched “automotive engineer” was so taken that he made it his mission to help “Percy and his friends...change the world.”
Oh, and thanks to commenter Panda103, who thought to do a bit of research I shamefully didn’t, we know who this engineer actually is. According to FuelSave™, it’s Zach Winfreid:
Now, this sure makes it seem like that’s a picture of Zach right there, right? Well, according to something called “reality,” that’s not Zach. It’s Calum Paterson:
Man, they even used the thumbnail frame! That’s lazy. You can see Calum himself in that little video that has absolutely nothing to do with FuelSave™, because Calum’s job is an engineer, not someone who tries to make people buy bullshit that does absolutely nothing for their car.
Of course, all of this backstory and whatever is fiction. The explanation for how the FuelSave™ works is fiction as well, but it’s fiction we’ve heard before. Here’s how the FuelSave™ system is described, in the strange, poetic cadence of this site:
“Simply put, this device acts as a small battery for cars.” - Percy Belson
“Once plugged in, it instantly connects to the car’s main electrical system
and discharges stored electricity when there is a heavy energy
demand from the alternator.”
“So instead of having the alternator work overtime, this device supplements
the required voltage to reduce the electrical system’s load.”
“Thus freeing up energy that can be better used
which results in a more efficient and complete combustion of gasoline.”
“That being said, your vehicle’s gas mileage is improved and produces cleaner emissions.”
“Getting better horsepower, acceleration, and a smoother running engine.”
“All within a tiny amount of fuel.” - Percy Belson
This bullshit explanation is basically the exact same thing that the old FuelShark said:
Again, it’s absolute bullshit.
As you can see, FuelSave™ is the exact same thing as the FuelShark—it’s likely made by the same nameless Chinese factory, and as you can see from the description, it’s got a capacitor in there. I opened up a FuelShark to see what size capacitor was in it, and while FuelSave™ might not have exactly the same sized one, there’s not enough room in there for anything substantially different.
Here’s what’s in the FuelShark, and, based on these pictures, should be nearly identical to what’s in the FuelSave™:
When I asked an electrical engineer, Professor Joseph Shepherd of Caltech, professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, about what a capacitor like this would do when connected to a car’s 12V electrical system, this is what I was told:
“A capacitor is passive. The cap starts discharged, you turn on engine and the cap gets charged up with 12V and stays charged. It took electrical energy to charge it, and it just sits there at 12v — not going back into the system or anything. You cut the car off and it discharges. That’s it.”
In short, it does, to use a technical term, fuck-all. Nothing. It lights up an LED. That’s it.
Again, this is all ground we’ve covered before, but since it seems there are still places trying to sell this bullshit, and with gas prices actually creeping up again, people will be getting desperate to save money, and could get suckered in to predatory crap like this, and I’m not having it.
This article isn’t so much for our regular readers, who can spot this shit a mile away, but is for you regular readers to send to your perhaps less car-interested and more car-ignorant friends or relatives who may be tempted: don’t buy this.
In fact, don’t buy anything that plugs into your 12V socket and claims to be able to save you fuel, because that’s just not how any of this shit works.
Look at those claims—more horsepower! Cleaner emissions! Save 40% on monthly fuel consumption! And those reviews! The middle person’s car now “emits clear and clean smoke!”
Lies. All of it. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
I tried to reach out to anyone associated with Fuel Save™, but, shockingly, there’s no contact information for anyone, even Boy Genius Percy Belson.
So, I’ll make my plea here:
Percy, if you’re out there, I’d be delighted to give you the chance to prove me wrong. Let’s get in your FuelSave™-equipped ‘69 Beetle, lock that fuel filler shut, and take a 2,000-mile road trip without filling up. I’ll buy the Combos, and I get to pick the music.
Come on, you fictional coward. If it works, I’ll get a FuelSave™ tattoo or something, and issue a formal apology, along with my ringing endorsement.
I’m not holding my breath.