One of the unpleasant realities of being a truck reporter is that you're exposed to a lot of product hype. I've heard so many things described as “revolutionary” that the word has almost lost its meaning in my book.
That's why a recent press conference held by HiTech Fuel Inc. caught my eye. The fuel additive distributor announced the commercial introduction of diesel-fuel and engine-oil catalysts. Both were presented with about as honest a marketing pitch as I've ever heard in this industry.
“I like to tell my salespeople they have two strikes against them when they go out to sell this product,” said Christopher Decatur, vp-marketing for HiTech. “The first is that they're salesmen, so people are already wary of them. The second is that they are selling a fuel additive, which many in the trucking business equate with snake oil.”
It's refreshing to hear this kind of honest assessment. The catalysts, which are manufactured by ACES (American Clean Energy Systems), were originally made for the military and space programs. Now, HiTech Fuel is bringing them to the commercial market.
Fleets will probably be most interested in ACES II, which was designed to help the military treat fuel stocks used overseas in order to eliminate bacteria, algae and other damaging elements found in poor quality fuels. Decatur said that since ACES II is not a petroleum distillate by-product, it makes a physical change to the diesel fuel by adding an oxygen agitator activator. This helps the fuel burn more efficiently, thus increasing horsepower and reducing fuel consumption by using more fuel to power the engine, — with less fuel leaving through the exhaust as waste.
According to Decatur, other benefits include the following: improving fuel economy up to 10%; reducing NOx emissions up to 20%; cutting overall emissions 66%; reducing cylinder wear 90%; and boosting horsepower, torque and anti-gel characteristics.
No doubt, those are some big claims. To back them up, Decatur mentioned several studies conducted on the products, most notably a Dept. of Energy-supported preliminary study by Pennsylvania State University that validated ACES II using a Tier II diesel engine. He readily admitted, however, that they have not done the key Type 2 fuel test recommended by the Technology & Maintenance Council. “We haven't done it yet and we need to do it.”
Scott Brown, president of HiTech, and Decatur noted that for a relatively minor cost, fleets can test their diesel fuel catalyst to see if it lives up to its billing. Brown explained that the fleet's current engines and fuel would first have to be tested to establish a baseline for fuel economy, emissions, etc.
The next step is to mix one gallon of the ACES II catalyst with 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel to help get rid of deposits and other contaminants in the engine. Then you mix one gallon of ACES II with 2,000 gallons of diesel, which begins the mpg phase of the testing. If the results aren't what the fleet expects, they don't have to use the product. HiTech will do the testing, so the only cost to the fleet is the two gallons of ACES II.
“This is our block-and-tackle year,” says Decatur. “We need to go out and prove that this works, not just talk about it. Customer testing is the best way to do that.”
Both Decatur and Brown are very blunt about it: They must meet fleet expectations with hard numbers. And that's a marketing pitch you don't hear every day. “Our feeling is if we don't come to the plate on what the customer is going to want out of this, then we'll never get a hit,” Decatur added. “That's how we're going to play it in this market.”