July 30, 2008 10:37 am

A “nice Sunday drive” just doesn’t have the same ring as it used to. InventHelp’s Invention Girl can remember filling up the tank and cruising around the city all day for what seemed like pocket change. Times sure have changed!

For anyone who has put more than a $50 bill into the gas tank this week, the idea of gas-saving gadgets sounds incredibly appealing. Sales of the Vortec Cyclone, which is designed to boost gas mileage by improving an engine’s air flow, have doubled this year. The $40 part swirls wind around the car’s air intake hose to create a finer air mixture that burns more effectively, said the product’s manufacturer, the Automotive Research Laboratory LLC.

But the government and the EPA believe that gas-saving devices are not worth the money. Even in the ones that work, they say, the savings are not enough to justify the cost of the purchase.

Vortec’s proponents aren’t discouraged by the EPA’s opinion. Some users claim the device boosts mileage by up to 6 miles per gallon, although a more realistic boost hovers around one or two. The Automotive Research Laboratory offers a money-back guarantee on the product, and they say returns run only around 5 percent of sales.

For now, at least, there’s no magic gadget that will make an SUV get 60 miles to the gallon. InventHelp’s Invention Girl hopes that we’ll have that device someday, but driving the speed limit, combining errands and traveling light will have to do for the time being.

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