PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There’s nothing like that sinking feeling when the low fuel light comes on or the “miles to empty” hits single digits.
Some start praying to the gas fume gods to get to the same gas station you passed five times as your tank approached empty.
While you would think running out of gas in the days of electronic gas gauges would be a thing of the past, AAA says that is not the case.
Last year, more than 13,000 drivers found themselves fuel-starved on the sides of roads in the local AAA service area.
In those numbers Steve Bistritzky sees a market for his Magic Tank Emergency Fuel.
“This is a ‘What if?’ It’s for an emergency, it’s an insurance policy,” says the Brooklyn entrepreneur.
Bistritzky came to Pittsburgh to demonstrate to KDKA why carrying a half gallon of Magic Tank in your trunk is safe. The formula is a distilled version of gasoline.
“We’ve taken out all the ‘anes,’ the butanes, hexanes, and heptanes which are the most volatile parts of gasoline,” he says.
The resulting mixture is combustible, so it will power a car’s internal combustion engine. However, it is not flammable.
To prove it, he lit several matches and held them above the liquid in a glass, and even dipped the flame in the fluid. The only thing that happened was the match went out.
KDKA took Magic Tank to the chemistry experts at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Chemistry, who ran it through a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer. They also tested gasoline for the comparison.
“The Magic Tank was missing the more volatile compounds,” Dr. Joseph Grabowski says.
As for its ability to keep a car running, Grabowski said, “You are putting a combustible fuel into your tank into an internal combustion engine, so it’s not surprising that it works.”
In theory is one thing and in practicality another, so KDKA-TV’s John Shumway ran a KDKA News vehicle empty.
That turned out to be no small feat as the car continued running well past the dashboard indicating zero miles to empty.
Eventually, 31 miles later, it finally shut down on Pittsburgh’s Parkway North. Shumway coasted to the shoulder of the road, put in the Magic Tank and was back rolling to the gas station.
It worked exactly as promised.
The fact that the product works and burns just like gasoline did not reassure mechanic Tim Dietz, who owns Troubleshooters Auto Repair and Auto Body.
“My first thought about this is that it’s a very puncturable container to carry something that substitutes for gasoline in a car,” Dietz said.
His primary concern is the possibility of the liquid leaking in the trunk, or getting on the user’s clothing and being a fire hazard.
So, outside his repair shop on Babcock Boulevard, Dietz set up his own test by dousing a T-shirt in gasoline and setting it on fire. He did the same with a T-shirt and Magic Tank.
The gasoline-doused shirt burst into flames instantly.
To his surprise, it took repeated tries with a lighter to get the Magic Tank T-shirt to start burning.
“I’m impressed that if you do spill it on yourself, it’s not going to burn. You would have to be very deliberate about it. A lit cigarette won’t do it,” Dietz said.
Bistritzky is currently selling Magic Tank which has a 10-year shelf life online only for $25 for a half-gallon,
However, he is working on getting it into a number of retail outlets.