Tested: Tank Chip fuel catalyst review

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a BMW S1000XR and Honda Grom. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, a KTM 1050 Adventure, Yamaha MT-10, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

 

 

Date reviewed: October 2018 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: From £35.75 | http://tankchip.com

 

Tank Chip is a small piece of metal that’s said to enhance power delivery, performance and acceleration, while improving economy, reducing emissions and helping to keep your engine clean; all you need to do is drop it into your fuel tank.

It comes with an anti-vibration stainless-steel mesh that the product sits in at the bottom of your tank, where it’ll never need replacing.

Two sizes are available – the Tank Chip S at £35.75, designed for sports and road use, and the Tank Chip R at £39.75, which is for high-performance engines and is claimed to treat the fuel in your tank more quickly; it’s said to be ideal for ‘heavy use / track days / fast touring’.

The company’s website, as well as its print advertising (run in most of the leading motorcycle magazines and newspapers) has quotes from customers who say they’ve seen a 10% improvement in economy and felt a significant boost in performance.

Products with similar claims have been around for a while, but after seeing Tank Chip’s ad in a magazine, we bought both versions. The larger R was tested in a KTM 1290 Super Adventure S, then later a Yamaha Fazer 1000, while the smaller S version was sent away to a lab find out what’s in it…

 

Tank chip fuel catalyst science review data fact

Tank Chip made bold claims in its magazine advertising

 

What’s the Tank Chip fuel catalyst made of?

Claimed to be a ‘super solid alloy’, according to a compositional analysis carried out for BikeSocial by an independent testing laboratory (using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy), Tank Chip is predominantly tin, along with around 20% antimony and 5% lead. It’s a similar make-up to pewter, but there are also other metals present in very small amounts, such as gold, though only 0.00161% – that’s 0.0004991g in the larger 31g Tank Chip R that we put in our KTM 1290 Super Adventure.

I spoke to Dr Chongming Wang, lecturer in Internal Combustion Engines, Institute for Future Transport and Cities at Coventry University. He has eight years of experience working with fuels and measuring their combustion and emissions in modern engines.

Dr Wang – who used to work as a fuel scientist for Shell Global Solutions – is very often sent products that are claimed to improve the performance of an engine, the companies hoping for a scientist’s backing. I asked him if the elements inside the Tank Chip could improve performance: “It is possible,” he said, “because in old times, gasoline was leaded – the lead basically boosted the fuel’s octane rating, which would help them work in high-compression engines.”

Adding lead to fuel can boost its octane rating, but this is a sacrificial process – the metal gradually dissolves into the petrol. Tank Chip claims to be a ‘heterogeneous catalyst’ that adsorbs molecules on its surface. Heterogeneous means it’s a different form to the reactant (it’s a solid, and petrol is a liquid), while adsorption sees any reaction taking place on the surface, as opposed to absorption, which is where a fluid soaks into the item. Tank Chip claims its product will not dissolve, erode, break down or wear out, and won’t ever need replacing.

 

tank chip what is made of fuel catalyst

The Tank Chip is made predominantly of lead, antimony and tin

How we tested the Tank Chip fuel catalyst

The KTM we tested the Tank Chip in had done just over 2,500miles, so was well on its way to being run in – while it’d be unlikely in the period of a week, we didn’t want anything too new that could potentially loosen up with repeated dyno runs.

With the bike running almost on empty, it was filled with premium unleaded fuel (95 RON) from the local Esso petrol station.

After running for a few miles to ensure the machine was only using this fuel, it was taken – at 8am – to race engineer Mark Brewin at BSD Performance

First, the bike was given a standard performance test on the dyno, to ensure it was fully up to temperature. We then drained all of the fuel out (easy thanks to the two taps on the bottom of the KTM’s tank), before putting two litres back in (we weighed the fuel down to a tenth of a gram, to ensure we had a repeatable amount). With a zip-tie holding the throttle in position, the bike was run at 70mph on the dyno, until it ran out of fuel. By timing the duration of that run, we could determine the economy.

After this run, we put the rest of the drained fuel back into the bike and did a full performance test, which involves several runs on the dyno to determine the power and torque delivered.

When this was done, the Tank Chip was put into the tank; we tied it to a piece of wire so we could get it out again after the test.

The KTM was refuelled at the same station, using the same fuel, then run for around 50miles. It returned to BSD the next week, again at 8am, where the exact same tests were carried out.

 

Tank chip fuel catalyst science review data fact

Tank Chip comes with a stainless steel mesh to reduce vibration in the tank

Does the Tank Chip fuel catalyst work?

After being in the fuel for six days, the Tank Chip had had plenty of time to react, but in our performance testing we saw no real difference. The first test gave us a peak of 135.53bhp and 86.60lb-ft, while running the bike with the Tank Chip in delivered 134.98bhp and 86.47lb-ft.

 

Tank chip fuel catalyst science review data fact

The blue trace is before the Tank Chip was added to the KTM, the red one is after

 

The engine’s temperature was always 100°C, and the ambient temperature difference between the two runs was 4.61°C – 32.94°C on the first test, 28.33°C on the second. This was corrected for in the dyno software, but even with correction off, there was still no noticeable variation in performance. Atmospheric pressure on the first day was 1028.64mBars, and 1029.24mBars on the second. Humidity increased from 14% to 16%.

The economy test threw up an anomaly: on the first run we achieved 106mpg – a very high amount, but remember that this is a perfectly steady throttle with no wind resistance. The dyno was set to provide 5% drag.

On the second run, economy dropped to 74mpg (a drop to 70%). On the face of it, the Tank Chip had a detrimental effect, but this seems unlikely. Mark Brewin explained that the ‘closed loop’ of a bike – the electronics that determine fuelling – had richened the mixture up after seeing the motorcycle being repeatedly run hard on the dyno. Before this test was started, the KTM had been doing touring and motorway miles.

 

Is a fuel catalyst effective in an older bike?

The economy tests were so inconclusive using the KTM that we delayed this article until we could get more dyno time to try it with a 2002 Yamaha Fazer 1000, which had covered 37,000miles.

The seller of Tank Chip told us that in their testing, they leave the vehicle on the dyno after the first test, then put the Tank Chip in and wait 30-45minutes before testing again, so we did the same with the Fazer: without the Tank Chip, peak power was 130.33bhp, torque was 72.21lb-ft. With the Tank Chip, power was 129.22bhp, torque was 71.49. We waited approximately two hours with the Tank Chip in the fuel between tests.

 

Tank chip fuel catalyst science review data fact

The blue trace is before the Tank Chip was added to the Fazer, the red one is after

 

Before each of these performance tests, we also carried out economy tests; first we set the idle speed to run the bike at 70mph with no load on the dyno. By not touching this again, we knew we had a constant throttle, then simply ran the bike for 30minutes and recorded the mileage thanks to the Fazer’s speedo being driven from the gearbox. The difference between this and the KTM economy test is that with the newer bike we maintained a steady speed and set volume of fuel to determine the time the bike would run, and hence the distance it would travel. On the Fazer, we set the idle, then never changed it, using one throttle position to determine how efficient the fuel would be for a set duration – for a bike to be more economical, the fuel should make the bike run faster at a set throttle opening.

Without the Tank Chip, the bike ‘travelled’ 42.8miles… with it, we saw 36.6miles. This drop to 86% is harder to explain, as the carb’ed bike wasn’t making any alterations to itself.

Earlier in the day we did see an increase in economy of 5% when using the Tank Chip, however a vacuum had formed in the tank – when we opened the filler air burst in. Combined with the high temperature the engine reached, and the very poor running as the economy run ended, we concluded that the bike was running lean and struggling for fuel due to a blocked breather.

Accurately testing economy on the road is very hard – every ride is different and the prevailing conditions will affect data, not to mention how much other traffic is about; it’s the reason I wanted a conclusive test on the dyno. It’s hard to accept that the fuel catalyst had an effect on the economy, so I’ve sent one each to three members of the BikeSocial Test Team for their results.

We were told by Tank Chip that lab testing had been done, though while we’ve asked for the results, they haven’t yet been made available to us. The company did, however, send testimonials it said it had received from customers – one had apparently seen his Triumph Street Triple return 56-58mpg without the Tank Chip and 64.4mpg with it. Another said that his local MoT station had recorded a drop in carbon monoxide output from his Honda SH300, while another said his Royal Enfield 500 Bullet was smoother and more responsive.

We informed Tank Chip that we’d not recorded any improvement in performance, and were told that the company ‘doesn’t currently claim that Tank Chip increases power output/BHP’, though the wording in advertising and on the website of ‘as users report, the beneficial effect it has on fuels not only safely enhances power delivery, performance and acceleration’, and the title ‘more power from a cleaner combustion’ could, we feel, give potential buyers a different impression.

We will be updating the article with our contributors’ findings of economy on the road, but ultimately, this test hasn’t shown any improvement in the performance of our bikes through using the Tank Chip.

I asked Dr Chongming Wang if he’d have expected us to notice any difference; “Gasoline has quite low conductivity, so the chemical reaction rate is low.” He told me that if any reaction were to take place, it would take a long time – longer than the fuel would be in the tank – and that he wouldn’t be surprised to hear that we didn’t see any variation during our trials…

We’d really like to hear from you if you’ve used the Tank Chip, or any other fuel catalyst – please do get in touch at enquiries@bikesocial.co.uk

 

tank chip fuel catalyst review fact

The language used on Tank Chip’s website appears to infer power gains could be expected

 

Right to reply: Tank Chip says…

We sent our findings to Simon Hamilton of Hamilton Direct, suppliers of the Tank Chip. Here’s his statement for publication:

"You have confirmed in writing to us in relation to the tests on both bikes: 'Conclusion: No loss or gain in performance, but our tests can’t be deemed conclusive regarding economy'. It is therefore clear that technical issues with the bikes and testing process on the dyno produced inconclusive results on economy. What really matters is that riders who use tank.chip on the road regularly report a significant increase in economy and also improvements in performance. We hope that the Bike Social Test Team enjoy more consistent and reliable results in their ‘real world’ trials.”

 

UPDATE: Real-world fuel economy tests

In October 2018, we gave the three Tank Chips that Hamilton Direct sent us to three members of the BikeSocial Test Team for economy testing. As of the end of January 2019, none of the testers have seen any increase in economy, though one believes that the throttle response of his 2007 Honda CB900F Hornet was improved with the Tank Chip, contrary to our lab testing. 

Another tester – an all-year-round commuter covering 100 miles a day – told us that “The Tank Chip has proved a spectacular failure. With the same route ridden to and from work, at the same time, Monday to Friday, I burned through four refuels prior to adding the Tank Chip to my Suzuki Burgman 650, which gave an average of 53.97mpg. After adding the product on the 18th of October 2018, I refuelled 40 times. The average with the tank chip installed was 53.15mpg. So no difference at all really, and no change in the power delivery or throttle response.

“I pulled it out and put it into my other bike – a Kawasaki Versys 650 – while I was overhauling the Burgman’s brakes and had similar results; three refuels without the chip gave an average of 49.71mpg, while a subsequent nine refuels with it in gave 50.42mpg. So again, the same route, with no real difference in economy or power. I covered a total of about 7,000 miles between the Burgman and the Versys. I’d say that’s pretty conclusive as a real world test goes.”

On the dyno with Tank Chip

Watch the full process of BikeSocial’s test of the Tank Chip fuel catalyst

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