Cummins, DOE Developing Small Diesel for Light-Duty Pickups

Could we soon see a new four-cylinder diesel engine from Cummins? The renowned engine maker has been developing and testing such an engine in a Nissan Titan test truck (official Nissan/Cummins partnership is not confirmed). Cummins reported its progress at last week’s U.S. Department of Energy Merit Review conference.

In January 2010, the DOE provided Cummins with $15 million to help fund development of an efficient diesel for light-truck use. Cummins began work last September with a goal to produce a diesel engine that would nearly double the efficiency of a Nissan Titan equipped with the current gasoline 5.6L V8 engine while not exceeding strict Tier 2 Bin 2 emissions standards. According to, Cummins hopes to achieve 28 mpg combined with the new engine. A two-wheel drive Titan is currently rated at 15 mpg combined city and highway.

According to a DOE report, Cummins has focused on various areas to achieve its fuel and emissions goals. One priority is the expansion of low-temperature combustion (LTC) which should result in very low emissions. For added durability, the prototype engine contains high-strength steel pistons, which are stronger than aluminum pistons commonly found in most gas or diesel engines. Nitrogen oxide emissions will be kept at bay by the use of exhaust fluid already used in current heavy-duty diesel trucks. reports that the prototype engine--likely based on the Cummins ISF2.8 sold in Europe--produced 350 lb-feet of torque during a recent dyno test. Cummins has set the final target output at 220 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. The Titan’s V8 puts out a bit more (317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque), but with the current cost of gasoline, and the significantly better projected fuel economy, we’re willing to bet consumers would be willing to go with the diesel engine.

While most truck makers as of late have been tweaking their gas engine with direct injection (and turbos in the case of the EcoBoost V6 found in the Ford F-150) to meet upcoming fuel economy standards, Cummins is proving that high-efficiency diesels could be a tough competitor and are even more efficient than gasoline-powered counterparts. According to a DOE report, 119 million barrel of oil per year could be saved if just 30 percent of light trucks in the United States switched to Cummins’ prototype engine (assuming it meets the proposed targets).

Thanks to Mike Levine at for use of the photos!

Source:, U.S. Department of Energy, Cummins

America needs a good light duty diesel pickup. Maybe something useful will develop from a Cummins-Nissan partnership. But why stop at full-sized pickups. Why not put a small diesel in a compact and mid-size pickup for the North American market. A small diesel pickup could do almost as much work as a full-size pickup with much better fuel economy.

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