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First Look: 2013 Ford Transit Van

The United States is Diesel Deprived No More

Jason Thompson
Aug 1, 2012
Photographers: Courtesy of Ford
Diesel enthusiasts in the United States have viewed other countries as the favored child of compression ignition. It seems like they’ve been getting all the good toys, and all we get is hand-me-downs or undesirable gasoline engines. To prove this point, consider that the Ford Transit van (sold in Europe) got its first diesel engine (the 2.4L York) back in 1972. This was Ford’s first in-house high-speed diesel, and it debuted all kinds of new technologies: a Ricardo Comet indirect injection (IDI) system, a valvetrain and injection pump driven by the crankshaft via a rubber belt (instead of gears or a chain), and a parent-bore block (cylinders cast into the block instead of sleeves). Plus, the bottom of its pistons were cooled by oil jets. This early Ford diesel came in two versions (54 hp or 61 hp) and spun to 3,600 rpm. The York went unchanged for 12 years (besides the addition of glow plugs), and more than 625,000 engines were produced during that reign.
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Direct Injection (DI) Revolution
In 1984, the York was completely redesigned. Everything except the pushrods and rear cover plate for the camshaft was redesigned. The biggest change was the introduction of direct injection (DI). So, instead of spraying fuel into a separate, smaller chamber (as with IDI diesels), this engine sprayed fuel directly into the cylinder. This design modification lessened the surface area in-cylinder, thus transferring more power into the piston instead of releasing it as heat into the cylinder head. This translated into a power and efficiency increase. Some Transit models got 36.2 mpg (up from 27.7 mpg with the IDI-equipped Yorks). At the same time, these 2.5L DI Ford diesels picked up 8 hp and could spin to 4,000 rpm (thanks to its high-pressure Lucas Diesel Systems rotary injection pump).
Second-Generation Emissions Engine
Due to increased environmental legislation in Europe, the ’88 2.5L DI got a re-entrant bowl depression in the piston, slim-tip Stanadyne injectors, and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). Emissions dropped, and power increased by 4 percent. Fuel economy also increased 3 percent. In 1991, this engine got a turbocharger and the world’s first diesel electronic engine management system (in a medium-duty commercial diesel). This invention, also from Lucas Diesel Systems (which was later acquired by Delphi), was named Electronically Programmed Injection Control (EPIC). Increasingly tough emissions standards were met and power was increased to 98.6 hp. As you can see, the Ford Transit has a history of diesel innovations. We’ll expect to see a high-tech and extremely fuel-efficient diesel under the hood of the United States version when it arrives in 2013 to replace the outgoing Ford E-series van.