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Singaporean scientist-engineer devises waterless car wash solution

SINGAPORE — Like every engineer, Dr Joseph Sun saw a problem and started devising a solution to solve it. In this case, the 52-year-old materials scientist noticed that the car-washing industry is plagued by the issue of excessive water wastage.

Dr Joseph Sun founded EWash, an app-based mobile car-wash service that makes use of a waterless car-washing solution.

Dr Joseph Sun founded EWash, an app-based mobile car-wash service that makes use of a waterless car-washing solution.

SINGAPORE — Like every engineer, Dr Joseph Sun saw a problem and started devising a solution to solve it. In this case, the 52-year-old materials scientist noticed that the car-washing industry is plagued by the issue of excessive water wastage.

“It’s the dream of every engineering guy to use their knowledge and background for a good business,” said the naturalised citizen who founded EWash, an application-based mobile car wash service that makes use of a waterless car-washing solution. It has been approved by the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

Dr Sun, who moved from his hometown of Shanghai, China to Singapore 23 years ago, believes that opting to go waterless is a step in the right direction.

He said that the potential amount of water saved can “help us achieve our national target” of consuming around 130L each person daily by 2030.

To date, he estimates his firm — which is backed by Mr Richard Li, the son of prominent Hong Kong business magnate Li Ka-shing — has saved between 12 and 13 million litres of water. This is roughly equivalent to five Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Dr Sun said that a conventional “pail-and-sponge” car wash uses about 140L of water for every car wash.

The Tsinghua University alumnus spent the first half of 2016 developing more than 10 versions of his solution, after leaving his job as a section manager at electronics manufacturer Stats ChipPac, before he felt confident of opening up his service to the public in August that year.

His product comprises four key components:

  • A surfactant — a compound commonly found in detergents — to dissolve and lift dirt particles from the car’s paint.

  • A lifting agent that concentrates the lifted dirt particles into liquid droplets to make it easier to clean.

  • A lubricant to prevent the formation of micro-scratches during the cleaning process.

  • A protective agent that leaves a layer of Carnauba wax on the car to protect it from discolouration by ultraviolet light, watermarks, swirl marks and bird droppings.

Being a pH-neutral solution, Dr Sun said that it is gentle on the hands and ensures that the paintwork of a vehicle will not be damaged.

While there might be similar products on the market, he said some of these were designed to be used in areas with lower humidity, for example.

“To use it in Singapore would result in a very different cleaning effect and efficiency,” said Dr Sun, who experimented on different chemical ratios to create a product suitable for the tropical climate.

To use the service, car owners first have to download the EWash app and create an account. Then, they can select the type of service required; apart from washing, the company also provides other services such as polishing, waxing and interior care services.

A one-off car wash costs S$10 and includes rim cleaning and tyre shining.

The washing will be done from 7pm to 1am at the customer’s car park.

Once a job is complete, a car owner will receive an in-app notification along with a photo of his cleaned-up vehicle.

Dr Sun said that EWash is now available only in certain areas: The whole of Punggol and selected parts of Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Merah, Clementi, Jurong East, Sengkang, Toa Payoh and Yishun.

He hopes to expand coverage to the rest of the island by the end of this year.

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