By on July 20, 2017

2018 Ford Mustang, Image: Ford

Ford’s German division has filed a patent for a new water injection system that could bring exponential improvements in efficiencies and high horsepower gains.

Truthfully, water injection isn’t a new technology, World War II fighter planes used vaporized water to improve low-speed thrust during take off, plus, an extra spurt of speed during dogfights. Post-war, both Saab and Oldsmobile offered vehicles with factory installed water injection systems before the technology enjoyed a renaissance in high-performance Group B rally cars during the 1980s.

Traditionally, water injection has been used as a shortcut to high performance, where a 50/50 water-alcohol mix is injected into the intake manifold where it’s used to lower combustion temperatures and cool the pistons and cylinder walls. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of detonation and allows for higher compression ratios, which can manifest as either higher performance metrics or a more efficient engine.

But where Ford’s design differs is its focus on injecting water directly into the combustion chamber instead of its traditional upstream location in the intake tract.

To do this, Ford is proposing a new type of injector — one fed by high-pressure fuel and water lines and capable of injecting both fluids in order to control pre-detonation as the ECU uses a medley of valve control systems to optimize compression ratios on the fly.

Ford water injection patent

A mini piston within the injector moves longitudinally via a spring to expose passages which allow “knock control” or “secondary fluid” to flow down into a chamber in the injection nozzle which surrounds the tip of the fuel injector. This would allow for “water spray to circumferentially surround a fuel spray if water injection and fuel injection occur at the same time.”

But on the other hand, under certain conditions, and based on parameters provided by a myriad of engine sensors, the ECU might decide that fuel and water injection shouldn’t happen at exactly the same time. “If it’s undesirable for the fuel and water sprays to overlap the controller may determine that the desired water injection timing is before or after a time at which the injector injects fuel,” the document reads.

Ford’s EcoBoost family of engines could benefit immensely from the introduction of this new water injection system. The vaporized water would help cool combustion temperatures which would reduce the reliance on Exhaust Gas Recirculation to curb excess NOx particulates, while also freeing flow from the exhaust that could be channeled through turbochargers and put to better use in performance applications.

There are also benefits to supercharged applications where a reduction in high cylinder pressures and exhaust temperatures could help slash fuel consumption during high-load, or high-boost events.

Theoretically, Ford could implement this technology up and down its lineup with simple tweaks to the ECU’s value lookup table – efficiency oriented parameters for regular offerings of the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, Taurus, Escape, Edge, Explorer, and F-150; while more aggressive maps are used for Raptors, Mustangs, and other hot EcoBoost offerings.

Additionally, differences in secondary fluid could provide even more distinction between the different types of applications. Ford envisions some embodiments of its new system will generate their own secondary fluid by capturing exhaust, intercooler and A/C condensate, or even rainwater, while other applications could use a more traditional water-alcohol mix.

Ford of Europe has been hard at work on this pollutant reducing and mileage maximizing system since at least January 2016, seemingly as a response to the demonization of diesel in the Old World. If and when the system does make it to production expect it to arrive with one of Ford’s European-developed EcoBoost motors in three- or four-cylinder flavors.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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49 Comments on “New Ford Patent Seeds Engine With Water, Promises Horsepower Boost...”

  • avatar

    Many early jets had water injection including the 747. It was one of the main reasons older jets had such smokey takeoffs. For example:


  • avatar

    That looks a bit like the oil injectors for rotary engines.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Ford will make EcoFluid a dealer only item, people will scoff and fill the reservoir with random tapwater, and Ford will void their warranties when the junk in the tapwater clogs the injectors.

    • 0 avatar

      @bumpy ii – I can see people wanting to put tap water in there to save a buck.

      • 0 avatar

        As an intern technician at a dealership I once asked, “Where’s the distilled water for the radiator?”

        The wise answer, “See that tap over there? It’s a voice-activated water tap. Say ‘Distilled water, please.’ before you turn it on.”

  • avatar

    This could be a pretty cool addition, as long as folks don’t throw a conniption about having to refill a water tank every once in a while. (If Ford knows what’s good for them, they’ll put in a filter so tapwater can be used, since you KNOW numbskulls aren’t going to use distilled water.)

  • avatar

    Everyone knows they could simply run the car entirely on water, if they revealed the technology they bought and quashed in the early 70s.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The current (ridiculously expensive) BMW M4 GTS uses water injection.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Well, judging by the amount of negativity from the anti diesel socialists I don’t think this will work.

    According to them a major reason for the failure of diesel in the US is the management of DEF.

    My god, how will they cope with this.

    These guys are mainly the ones who thought a carby was great, with a coils, points and distributors.

    So, why doesn’t Ford extract moisture from the atmosphere to replenish the water. Air Con units do remove moisture from the atmosphere.

    • 0 avatar

      Anti diesel socialists? Surely not. The upper crusts living in London, Paris and Berlin were finding the air was getting decidedly too smelly, so that’s what’s behind the diesel bans. If it just bothered the proles, they’d be told a couple of deep breaths would do ’em a world of good, with unanticipated health side benfits, like the urge to work harder and complain about unions.

      Good idea about using the water from A/C, but the water removed from the air is from inside the cabin, sadly. Tinged with sweat, steamy burger aroma, and eau-de-fish and chips in the UK, the MTBF on the $1.29 water filter Ford specced becoming completely clogged was only a week. So no go. Thank you for your suggestion!

    • 0 avatar

      It does say in the article that they could use the condensate from the evaporator.

      Fact is that that unless the system is in recirc mode the air it is extracting the water from came from outside. With many cars now having cabin air filters that should eliminate large particles. For the smaller ones I’m sure there will be a filter in the system.

      However the problem with using that water captured from the evaporator or the tail pipe is that it is just water and can freeze. That is why factory water injection systems don’t use pure water. Olds called it turbo rocket fluid or something like that and it was a 50/50 mix of water an alcohol.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Why the use of the 3 Star Safety rated Mustang?

    Why not a 5 Star Safety rated Focus?

    • 0 avatar

      does it matter what they use for a lede image?

      I mean, seriously?

      • 0 avatar

        Weird for you to question what matters to others. It’s like you want a monopoly on whining.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Why does it need to be the Mustang?

        Just because it is sold in the EU?

        I would think any vehicle that has the tiny 1 litre 3 cylinder EcoBoost would of been more apt.

        A Pony Car? What is the first engine you think of when you look at that Mustang?

        An EcoBoost?

    • 0 avatar

      A car enthusiast site, especially one aimed predominantly at USA markets would be more inclined to use a performance variant in any lede photo talking about performance gains.

      Most of us do not equate Focus with performance.

      • 0 avatar

        The choice of picture was the author’s or editor’s and the reason it has to be a Mustang has nothing to do with where it is sold, what engine it has in it, or its Euro safety rating. It has to do with the neccessity of the article generating the click through, and earning more money for the website. So on an article about performance on Ford vehicles the default choice will likely be a Mustang.

        Plus they know that you’ll fall for the bait and make not just one click but at least two to voice the fact that you desperately wish you could afford a Mustang, along with an aluminum pickup.

        While the Ecoboost do have a greater potential to benefit from water injection it does not need to be a forced induction engine to have any benefit.

  • avatar

    Define “exponential.”

  • avatar

    It would be great if this technology went mainstream since it seems that low displacement turbo engines are the future. Engine longevity might increase. It is yet another level of complexity however.

    Interestingly my understanding is that water injection was used in turbojet aircraft engines in order to increase the mass of the exhaust thus increasing thrust rather than for cooling the engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Water injection was used more for turbojets and not with turbofans.

      Much of the energy in the exhaust of a turbine engine is utilised to power the fan on a turbofan. So, water injection is of little value.

      A turbojet’s thrust is reliant on it’s exhaust from the engine as opposed to a turbofan thrust is mainly from the large fans on the front of an engine.

      You will see older turbojets use water augmentation in hot and high situations.

  • avatar

    You can buy these aftermarket kits on amazon for a few hundred dollars, and they run windshield washer fluid which just so happens to be a wonderful combination for injecting into boosted cars.

    Horsepower yields are substantial.

    • 0 avatar

      There is “winter” and “summer” windshield fluid. Summer fluid contains soap/detergents. Winter fluid would be an alcohol/water mix but I would not trust the purity.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah I’ve seen some pretty nasty cheap washer fluid, with some sort of crystallized solids at the bottom of the jug. Of course like everything there is a range of quality. I’m not sure what the Rain-X brand stuff that I use would do, coat the inside of the engine to make it slicker and improve economy and performance even more?

  • avatar

    Off Topic: Again the RSS feed took me to this same article but only at a different website

  • avatar

    Injecting a water/meth mixture into current diesels, like my current 335d, yields a LOT of horsepower gains due to cooling down the intake charge. Would be cool to see on more mainstream models (I think the current M3 competition car uses a system similar to this).

  • avatar

    Does this reduce/eliminate the benefit of an intercooler?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Not really. This cools the charge inside the cylinder, while an intercooler cools the air before it reaches the cylinder. It’s good to have both.

  • avatar

    Finding a way to cool the air coming into the combustion chamber would be a great benefit. I’ve driven multiple cars (including my current Ranger) where when the outside temperature hits 90° and the engine gets warmed up, you lose seemingly 20% or more of your power–especially if you’re running your AC at the same time. And no, the AC is not the primary cause because even running windows down with the heater blowing (to help cool the engine) the power is noticeably lower. Water injection might be one way to do this.

    Oh, and don’t forget that even jet fighters used to use water injection… the old century-series jets had a habit of giving a loud BOOM when water was fed into the engine afterburners during takeoff.

    • 0 avatar

      If you are driving around town or in stop and go traffic on a 90 degree day the intake air temps can climb very high like 130-140 or more but get out on the freeway and the temps will drop down to near ambient. Definitely getting more O2 molecules if the intake temp is much lower. However water injection in cylinder won’t help that as the number of O2’s in the cylinder are locked in when that valve starts to close.

  • avatar
    Mike C.

    Um… not to be pedantic but water injection has been used on some turbofan engines in the past.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Mike C.
      Yes, low bypass fans ………… from the 60s.

      The bypass air from these was mainly used for cooling purposes, not provide thrust. As jet engines became more efficient, they ran hotter. The majority of the bypass air cooled the engine.

      Low bypass fans are still used on modern military aircraft. The bypass air cools the outer engine and is mixed back into the gas flow after the lower pressure turbine prior to the afterburner. The don’t have (to my knowledge) water augmentation.

      A small amount of the bypass air continues through the after burner module between the after burner liner and after burner case for cooling as well. The rest (majority) is mixed into the exhaust to augment (increase) the oxygen in the exhaust, thus a further increase in thrust from the after burner is realised.

      The high bypass fans generate most thrust via the fan module.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    I *really* don’t wanna have to monitor the water level on my car that much.

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