LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) - Leander police say they're saving thousands of dollars in fuel costs after installing a small device that changes the way gasoline burns in their patrol cars.
A pilot project began a year and a half ago with six cars, and newly released data are so encouraging that the department plans to expand the program to all of its 31 cars.
The need to innovate started with a little budget crisis at the Leander Police Department.
"It happened a few years ago. We started getting into a pinch where we were getting to the end of the budget year and running out of gas money," said Lt. Jackson Mitchell, who oversees the department's fleet operations.
Today, one solution is tucked under the hood of 14 cars, including police Chevy Tahoes, Crown Victoria patrol cars and one Ford F-150 pickup truck used by Leander Animal Control staff.
"We believe it's saving us close to about $10,000," said Mitchell.
That's a significant 7.6 percent in a $130,000 fuel budget -- money that can be put to other uses such as training or new equipment.
So what is the thin metal tube that connects to the car's fuel line? The Fuel Eco System is a $400 cylinder filled with a copper mesh filter. It's supposed to agitate the fuel so it combusts more completely, improving fuel economy and producing fewer emissions.
From a miles-per-gallon perspective, LPD's numbers show an average of 12 percent improved fuel economy in the month after the device was put in, compared to the month before. Average miles-per-gallon numbers in the six test cars was 7.9 mpg before jumping to 8.8 mpg.
One car showed an improvement of 36 percent, while others improved between 3 percent and 14 percent.
Once the Fuel Eco System is installed in all 31 Leander police cars later this year, cost savings are expected to approach an estimated $20,000, depending on factors such as fuel costs.
KXAN first met the man who distributes the devices back in November 2005. That's when a KXAN car was outfitted with the Fuel Eco System. In a short city drive, our own testing showed some decrease in carbon monoxide consumption.
This week, we asked Rich Prilliman why there isn't critical mass on the product.
"I think it has to do with skepticism. Other products don't work, and if one doesn't work, then probably none of them work. And that's what I've come across," he said.
But for LPD, it's about stretching the budget's dollar.
"It's whatever we can do to save some money," said Mitchell, admitting that he, too, was initially skeptical.
But along with improved fuel economy, he said he also noticed a slight increase in acceleration power in his own test car.
Prilliman provided KXAN with a list of other groups he says are using the device on at least some of their fleet cars. In Central Texas, they include the cities of San Marcos and Taylor, as well as several school districts -- including Georgetown, Liberty Hill and Jarrell ISDs.
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