AlcoSense Ultra Fuel Cell Breathalyser Review

AlcoSense Ultra Fuel Cell Breathalyzer
A quality product which could be great with a couple of tweaks
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I was invited to review the AlcoSense Ultra Fuel Cell Breathalyzer (as it is called on their UK website) - or should it be breathalyser as we're based in the UK?

On first receiving the package containing the breathalyser, I was very impressed by the quality feel of both the packaging and the actual product itself. It also came with a very handy zippable pouch, so I could carry it safely with a few of the blow tubes that are necessary for taking an actual breath sample.

I received 100 of these blow tubes, as you do when you purchase this particular model directly from AlcoSense themselves.

I have been driving to France and Spain several times each year since 2003, so I am very familiar with the ups and downs of the French drink-driving law and the flip-flop situation regarding needing to carry a breath test kit with you.

I have always carried one when driving in France, although on the very odd occasion where I have been stopped - it's usually by Armed Police on a roundabout near the Spanish border - so they have always seemed only to be interested in whether there are any hidden people or drugs in the car! It would obviously be different if you were involved in an accident, your driving was a bit erratic or if you were stopped in a more normal roadside check.

Anyway, back to the breathalyser. As a retired Police Officer, I have conducted breath tests on the side of the road many times. They were usually followed by a few hours of admin - ie., most of them were positive!

I found this one very easy to use - and - in fact - much easier than the older Police-issued ones we used. The visual guide showing how much breath has been captured makes it really easy to know when to stop blowing into it.

The results seemed accurate - showing 0.17 mg/L BrAC 20 minutes after finishing a couple of pints (which were drunk with a meal over 1.5 hours), with the legal limit being 0.35. The device lets you see the last 5 results, so you can scroll back to an earlier one if necessary.

I should add that this breathalyser is really intended for you to use 'the morning after the night before' - rather than on the night itself. In the example I described above, I was using it but without any intention of driving anyway.

It's also good that when you start the device up before taking a reading, it confirms the legal limit for the country you have specified in the settings.

Now, having handled the device quite a few times and carrying out 'breath tests' on a few different people with it - I would make a few suggestions for improvement to give this a lasting quality/feel:

  • The buttons that are used to access the menu and other options, are actually part of the overall case. As such, they don't work very well as buttons and would be much better if they were.
  • The blow tubes don't actually click or lock into place, so you're never sure that they are really where they need to be. In fact the device still says 'Insert Blow Tube' after you've inserted one - so it doesn't know itself whether there is one connected or not.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that these breathalysers need calibrating every twelve months. Although this is explained on the product detail page on AlcoSense's website - it doesn't make any mention of there being a cost associated with it. It actually says "When calibration expires just post it to us and we will recalibrate it using Police spec Breath Alcohol Simulators and return it to you within 5 working days."

At the time of writing, calibration seems to be from £34.99 for the basic service and up to £63.98 if you want it certified (for use in a workplace) and tracked postage to the laboratory.

Overall, I would say that this is a quality product, which may give peace of mind to a subset of motorists who want an indication that they are under the drink-drive limit for the jurisdiction in which they are driving. Clearly, it may also have a benefit to employers of professional drivers - in fact I would find it very reassuring if I knew that a particular taxi/bus/coach/transport firm used one of these on all of their drivers before they started every shift!

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