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IT ISN’T obvious, but keeping vehicle windscreens clean while on the move consumes vast quantities of water.

In Europe, for example, an estimated six billion litres of screenwash is used every year. And consumption is expected to increase due to the rising number of sensors and cameras that need to be kept clean. 

As a result, ways to cut wastage are being investigated and a more environmentally friendly alternative has just been tested by Ford.

The innovation wasn’t one of Ford’s own, though – but that of siblings Daniel and Lara Krohn, from Jülich in Germany.

While travelling in their dad’s car during a storm, an empty washer reservoir resulted in a smeared windscreen that wouldn’t clear. “There was water everywhere, except in the windscreen wiper reservoir,” said 11-year-old Daniel. “We thought this was really funny and then the answer suddenly seemed obvious: simply reuse the rainwater.”

Lara, Daniel’s nine-year-old sister, added: “We took apart our toy fire engine and fixed its pump to a model car inside an aquarium. Then we added a filtering system. It just worked really well.”

The two submitted the concept to a science competition and promptly won first prize. Ford engineers, on hearing about the idea, subsequently contacted the Krohns and developed a prototype on an S-Max people-mover.

“In less than five minutes of rainfall the reservoir is full,” explained Theo Geuecke, supervisor of Ford’s body exterior hardware division.

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