You know when you’re driving along on a wet day and the spray from cars gets your windshield dirty, so you continuously spray and wash away the grime, but then the washer reservoir goes dry and you just end up smearing the glass? What if you had a “bottomless” reservoir to ensure you always had washer?
Ironically nobody had ever thought of developing a system to collect the water you’re wiping away from your windshield to top the reservoir used to clean your windshield. But then along came a couple pre-teens to develop the idea and research its feasibility.
The brother and sister team of Daniel Krohn (11) and Lara Krohn (9), from Jülich, Germany, came up with the idea while travelling in the family car. The family got caught in a downpour and trying to clean the windshield proved fruitless because the reservoir had run dry and the wiping was simply spreading the grime around.
The two came up with the idea of collecting and reusing rainwater that would otherwise be squeegeed away by the wipers, and tried it out on their toys.
“We couldn’t believe that no-one had thought of it before,” explained Lara. “To try it out, we took apart our toy fire engine and fixed the pump to a model car inside an aquarium. Then we added a filtering system to ensure the water was clean.”
It was such a cleverly simple idea that it won the pair first prize at the local science fair, and caught the attention of Ford, which has developed the idea in a full-sized S-Max.
“Daniel and Lara’s idea has been staring drivers in the face for decades – and it has taken one moment of ingenuity to bring it to life,” said Theo Geuecke, supervisor, Body Exterior Hardware, Ford of Europe. “In less than five minutes of rainfall, the washer reservoir is completely full.”
Water sustainability will play an important role in future autonomous vehicles, as water consumption is expected to increase in order to keep the necessary systems’ sensors and cameras clean and functioning. Ford had reportedly experimented with harvesting water via rain and condensation in order to reduce the impact of the water usage in future vehicles.
The S-Max system involves rubber tubes collecting water run-off at the bottom of the windshield, channeling it directly to the windshield washer reservoir.
Ford estimates that a vehicle uses around 20 litres of water annually cleaning windshields, headlights and rear windows. In Europe alone, the “Krohn” system (not the official name) would help save at least six billion litres of water every year.
“Innovations like these are essential to make the water we have go further,” said Nicci Russell, managing director of Waterwise, the non-profit organization working to reduce water consumption in the UK. “We will all need to change our behaviour to waste less water, but we’ll also need clever new bits of kit like the one Daniel and Lara have designed. What a brilliant idea!”