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FORD'S EASY FUEL SYSTEM TAKES THE GUESSWORK OUT OF FILLING UP

COLOGNE, GERMANY - When Rudolph Diesel devised a more efficient engine in 1892, he probably did not envision the situation that exists today: Gasoline and diesel fuel sold next to each other from look-alike pumps, often four to six in a row. But for anyone who accidentally fills their diesel-powered car with gasoline, it can be a €4,000-€5,000 ($4,700-$5,900) case of mistaken identity.

Ford of Europe has now come up with a solution for the mis-fueling of cars, a problem that affects hundreds of thousands of people in Europe each year. It's called Easy Fuel, and it is a simple device that prevents a gasoline nozzle from being inserted into a car with a diesel engine.

"Ford's intention is to isolate the danger of engine damage to all customers," said Ford Fuel Systems Engineer Stefan Buro. "With the Easy Fuel system, we have developed a method for error-free handling, especially for the coming generation of quietly running diesel engines, where the only things customers notice are good performance and excellent fuel economy."

The Easy Fuel system, with a patented mis-fueling inhibitor, consists of a sealed filler pipe insert and fuel nozzle locator that guides the nozzle to the tank opening. The insert contains a mechanically operated diameter detector which only allows the larger diesel fuel nozzle to be inserted into the filler pipe, and locks out the thinner gasoline nozzles. The system will begin appearing on Ford vehicles within two years following final testing.

Unlike a gasoline engine, which compresses a mixture of gasoline and air, diesel engines compress just air before diesel fuel is injected into the cylinder and the fuel is ignited. Pouring gasoline into a diesel engine can cause damage to the fuel pump, the high-pressure injection system, as well as other serious engine problems.

Today's modern diesel engines, with their sophisticated high pressure injection systems, typically have a low tolerance against mis-fueling. Even after a short driving distance, parts of the fuel pump may seize, requiring parts or the total injection system to be replaced.

With the European diesel market growing – approximately 50 percent of Ford's car sales in Europe have diesel engines – mis-fueling is an ever increasing problem. In Great Britain, for example, where diesel fueled family cars are relatively new, the Automobile Association reported 43,000 breakdowns as a result of an estimated 120,000 cases of unintended mis-fueling in 2003, with approximately the same proportion expected for the following years.

Other European countries, such as Germany and France, have a longer tradition of diesel powered cars and a somewhat lower proportion of mis-fueling. But, as has been indicated by auto industry trade magazines, mis-fueling happens to very experienced drivers as well. Depending on the amount of damage sustained, engine repairs can cost from €120 to €4,000-€5,000 for a major overhaul.

The Easy Fuel system is catching the attention of others. Autocar, a leading British car enthusiast publication, presented the Easy Fuel system with its “Idea Of The Year Award” earlier this month.

Autocar Editor Rob Aherne said: “If simplicity is the essence of a great invention then Ford’s Easy Fuel Concept must be one of the best. It has the potential to prevent the inconvenience and expensive repair bills associated with filling a diesel car with petrol. We think it is ingeniously designed and a worthy winner of the Autocar idea of the year.”

On collecting the award, Ford's Buro said: “We are delighted to accept this Autocar Award. We at Ford are keen to make motoring as problem free as we can by constantly evolving our product design and integrating ideas such as the Easy Fuel Concept.”