You fill up your "empty" fuel tank at the gas station and the pump charges you for more gallons than the tanks rated capacity. Are you being deliberately overcharged?
Simplified schematic of a vehicle fuel tank (not to scale). Credit: J.Williams/NIST
Unauthorized tampering with pumps does happen, even though state and local weights and measures officials regularly check gasoline pumps to ensure their accuracy. But there are also legitimate reasons for a discrepancy between the amount of fuel metered by a gas pump and an automobiles rated fuel tank capacity, according to a recent paper from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
For example, some manufacturers estimate that actual fuel tank capacity can vary as much as 3 percent from the tank capacity rating because of design characteristics, the manufacturing process, and even the physics associated with the components that monitor emissions and the electronics of the fuel system and fuel indicators.
John Blair | EurekAlert!
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