By on May 19, 2011

Pickuptrucks.com reports that you may not have to wait for Mahindra to work through its legal issues to get an efficient diesel-powered pickup, as the DOE has funded development of a four-cylinder Cummins diesel engine which is being demonstrated in a Nissan Titan. According to the report

Cummins refers to the engine by the codename “LA-4” with a 2.8-liter displacement (170 cubic inches). Initial power figures on the engine dyno have the mule test engine producing 350 pounds-feet of torque at around 1,800 rpm. A chart in the presentation shows targeted power levels to be approximately 220 horsepower and 380 pounds-feet.

The engine is likely a derivative of the four-cylinder ISF architecture that Cummins builds overseas, with 2.8-liter and 3.8-liter displacements. The overseas 3.8-liter is rated at 168 horsepower and 443 pounds-feet of torque…

To meet U.S. clean-diesel standards, the 2.8 would use diesel exhaust fluid to scrub nitrogen oxide emissions, like Ford and GM use today in their heavy-duty diesel pickups. It would also feature a so-called passive NOx storage system that would capture and hold NOx during cold starts, releasing the gas when temperatures rise to levels of max efficiency for DEF. The passive system would save fuel used today to jumpstart NOx scrubbing when the system is cold.

The upshot? 28 MPG combined, according to pickuptrucks.com. Given the discrepancy between EPA fuel economy numbers and the CAFE method, that means this engine could make a Titan (which gets 13/18 MPG EPA with its stock V8) more than compliant with the 2015 30 MPG truck standard. And because the DOE spent only $15m, this probably qualifies as one of the more promising government fuel-economy improvement programs in some time. After all, improving truck efficiency is one of the toughest aspects of CAFE compliance… and if a Titan can get nearly 30 MPG combined (about the same as current four-cylinder family sedans), the government’s $15m just bought it a crushing blow to the industry’s anti-CAFE carping.

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52 Comments on “Your Tax Dollars At Work… On A Four-Cylinder Truck Diesel...”


  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    I’m surprised that Ford didn’t think of it first, to put a 4-cyl diesel in their F150 line as an option. The EB V6 is a nice try, but as earlier versions of turbocharged and supercharged engines have shown us, they are not without their unique problems and require at least twice as much routine maintenance as normally aspirated engines. Let’s not forget the current problems with oxygen sensors in the Cummins line of RAM trucks. What are the owners going to do after the warranty period runs out?

    • 0 avatar
      uncleAl

      +1
      In my business, we use over the road tractor trailers in support of our core mission. All of the emissions add on stuff has made them costly and unreliable. In the past one could buy a KW or Pete with a Cummins engine and expect 5 to 7 hundred thousand miles with little trouble. Now the new KW we got last year we had to turn back in as it stayed in the shop with engine problems. The Volvo replacement with a Volvo engine is better, but they are nothing like the simple robust workhorses they used to be just a few years ago.
      The new diesels with all of the emissions are expensive and very fragile. We would never buy a diesel pickup when the gas ones are very reliable as they are now. We have no choice in an over the road truck however. I suppose we should look at stocking up on pickups ahead of CAFE. In attempting to fix one problem it looks like our government has created several more.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        This should not be a surprise.

      • 0 avatar
        Sinistermisterman

        +1 uncleAl

        I’m all for simple and well made diesel engines that run until doomsday, but the urea injection emissions crap that was cobbled onto the engines of the rigs where I used to work were the achilles heel of the system. Our mechanics wanted to tear their hair out with the number of times units came in with problems.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        All my early trucks were six-cylinder with three-on-the-tree, and they worked fine for what I did with them. I bought my first V8 truck in 1988, a Silverado 350 ExtCab LongBed, and have chosen V8-power ever since. A 4-cyl long-stroke, high torque diesel seems to fit the bill for what most people do with a half-ton, but I’m not sure if the additional cost will off-set the savings in fuel costs. In my area diesel has always cost a whole lot more than gas, and the cost of this little diesel will no doubt be more than the standard 5.6-liter gas engine.

      • 0 avatar
        vento97

        highdesertcat:

        >All my early trucks were six-cylinder with three-on-the-tree, and they worked fine for what I did with them.

        Funny you mentioned this, my current pickup truck is a 92,000 mile 1987 Chevy C10 (1500) with the 4.3L TBI Vortec V-6 and 3-speed Saginaw manual tranny. The beauty of these transmissions is the durability and simplicity. Since it has no A/C, spark plug changes are easy. Just changed the oil on it last week – without needing to jack up the truck.

        Since it’s a two-wheel drive, I don’t drive it in the winter – especially when there’s salt on the roads. As long as you identify and hit the rust spots early, the body tends to hold up pretty well. You’ll be surprised how many of the old trucks I still see out on the roads – which is a testament to their durability as long as they are regularly maintained…

    • 0 avatar
      AKADriver

      This is a turbocharged engine also… how is it better than the ecoboost in that regard?

  • avatar
    JMII

    When can I get this in a Dakota sized truck? I don’t a huge Titan. My current 4.7 V8 Quad Cab is 235 hp / 295 lb-ft so if 220HP / 380TQ at 28 mpg is available consider me in line to purchase!

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      In the end all your savings over a tried and (relatively) simple 4.7V8 on fuel may turn out to be neglidgeble, as all above commenters noted, modern diesels require more frequent maintenance, are rather unreliable and expensive to fix.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    But who would buy a full-size pick-up with a four cylinder engine?
    I don’t think the market is ready for such downsized engines.

    • 0 avatar
      joe_thousandaire

      The number of cylinders doesn’t mean as much in diesel engines. Consider that most diesel engines are I-6, a 4 cylinder isn’t that big of a step down. I’d go for this in a second, its nice to see the government touting a real practical solution for once, instead of their typical pie-in-the-sky magic-bullet b.s.

    • 0 avatar
      friedclams

      Contractors/workmen who like torque and who don’t like getting killed by fuel prices.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        in other words, “people who actually need a pickup truck”.

        Don’t worry, a seven liter gas-powered V8 — as well as the always hilarious lift kit/tow hitch combo — will still be available as long as there are people who drive the things as fashion statements.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Americans drive torque, not horsepower. I read a post elsewhere where the author mentioned that the EB V6 was a nice try but that a 4-cyl diesel would have been better, especially if it cranked out more than 300 ft-lbs of torque, regardless of the amount of horsepower it produced (i.e. 160hp and 400lb-ft of torque). I agree with that. I don’t use all the hp of my 5.7 Tundra since I rarely get it over 2500rpm in daily driving, even while towing a flatbed loaded with 5-ton of brick. I just keep it in a lower gear and let the twist do the work.

      • 0 avatar
        jaje

        Misconception of what torque is as I seems most people think it only means an engine’s down low grunt. It is in fact a measure of twist / work at all RPMs. All engines make torque – it is just where in the RPM band it is made and engines are tuned / designed for specialization of where an engine reaches maximum torque. For instance, trucks and heavy duty applications have torque at lower RPMs helps move (work) a large mass. However, on the flip side where acceleration is important such as in high performance cars – the higher RPM you can make the torque the higher your HP b/c HP is a ratio of torque to RPM and over 5200 rpm it is amplified. That is the confusion from a “torquey” engine versus a “screamer”.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      I’ll take an engine with flat torque curve that comes on at under 2K rpm any day. On a four cylinder its way less buzzy even if it isn’t as much seat of the pants fun.

      • 0 avatar
        Canucknucklehead

        Speaking as someone who operates a fleet of vehicles, I wouldn’t touch this thing with a ten foot Lithuanian. It would be a service nightmare.

        For business, simple=better.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      As a homeowner of some property and fixer uppers I will never be without truck. My needs are not that heavy duty and I do fine with 1/2 ton Silverado. I would of gotten a smaller truck, but when you option them for a nicer interior you have to take the V6 which gets you about 1 more mpg. So I got a V8 short bed. If I could get closer to 30mpg the small diesel would work for me. But first I need to do the math to see if the incraesed milage makes up for the price of gasoline.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        And you can bet your ass the diesel will cost a lot more than the standard engine, whatever that is, i.e 5.6 Endurance V8 in the current Titan (a helluva engine, BTW). Buddy of mine got one, loves it. My first intro to foreign-brand half-tons. I was impressed. Chose a Tundra instead (6-speed auto did it for me).

    • 0 avatar

      That giant Peterbuilt that hauls the trailer full of V-8 powered pickups to the dealer – guess how many cylinders it has? Usually six. When you switch to compression ignition (Diesel) throw away half of what you think you know about engines. It is a very different world.

      The 2.8L four in my wife’s Liberty CRD drives better than the 3.7L V-6, and regularly returns 29 MPG compared to the gasoline engine’s 14-16 MPG.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    I wish that they could somehow eliminate the complexity and cost of urea injection.

    I know that CARB (and so the EPA) hates diesels, for they want us all in the fantasy world of public transportation and, on a special occasions, a turn at the wheel of an electric vehicle, using electricity from windmills, but c’mon. Diesels without all of the added complexity would be both even more fuel efficient and long-lasting (something they’re known for, but are losing due to all of the environmental add-ons).

    There has to be a happy medium without saddling vehicles with a bunch of sensors and add-ons that’ll turn into maintenance nightmares after the warranty runs out, but the vehicle still could have a lot of life left in it.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Unfortunately, all of the increases in diesel efficiency that we’ve seen lately come at the cost of increased combustion temperature which means increased NOx emissions. Urea injection is more efficient at reducing those than a lot of other systems.

      And really, adding in a little diluted urea when the thing asks for it isn’t that big a deal.

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      “I wish that they could somehow eliminate the complexity and cost of urea injection”

      You can – by adding (more) high pressure & low pressure cooled EGR with Nox Trap, DPF, Intake and exhaust throttles, hydrocarbon doser, electric intake heater or fuel reformer.

      Trust me once you’ve added some / all this stuff the simple SCR system is wonderful and lower cost

      (Full disclosure: I work for Cummins on SCR aftertreatment)

      • 0 avatar
        Tommy Boy

        colin42,

        It may well be that urea injection is the “best” of a group of bad choices (and having to purchase / fill urea plus service the damn injection system when sensors and pumps and all the rest start failing … out of warranty, of course, is hardly appealing).

        But the main point is that the enviro-weenies are purposely making it so that diesel is unattractive, as they are / will with gas engines, for they don’t like us in any form of independent transportation at all (for amongst other things, this enables living in the suburbs, and they’d prefer to reduce “sprawl” by forcing us back into cities).

        For me, I prefer the American Dream of a house and yard, and not having to commute in a stinky subway and then come home to an apartment building listening to an amorous neighbor couple’s headboard banging against one wall, and twenty-something neighbors blasting hip-hop through the other wall.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Uh, I like to have air that I can breathe without reigniting my latent asthma. Nitric oxide is toxic. You’re not allowed to have a diesel engine belch out large quantities of the stuff for the same reason that I’m not allowed to defecate on your front steps.

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        Didn’t Navistar go the EGR route with the result being that the added cost hurt sales?

    • 0 avatar

      Until and unless CETANE ratings that might get to 40 are raised, enabling lower compression, hence lower NOx and less EGR clogging…Good luck! BTW biodiesel is 47 minimum.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Good idea. Now, Nissan, detune this Cummins mill a bit, drop it in a Frontier, and you might one day earn me back as a Nissan pickup truck driver.

    I could not justify both the bloated pricing and underwhelming fuel efficiency of the base Frontier four-cylinder. This engine, at a slight premium perhaps over the gas mills, would make the Frontier a whole lot more tolerable to my mind and budget. And I’d bet it would get stellar fuel mileage. They’re saying 40 mpg is the new 30 mpg. Imagine Nissan being the first pickup truck to snag that claim…it’d be huge for Nissan (and for a lot of my fellow Tennesseans who build the things).

    • 0 avatar
      Styles79

      What’s even more crazy is that Nissan already offer this combination, here in NZ you can get a Navara (same as Frontier) with a 2.5 diesel with 330 foot-pounds 188 horsepower and gets (admittedly not so good) 27mpg…. I don’t get why they are reinventing the wheel for the US?

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        That’s awesome, Styles79. Our four-cylinder 2.5 gasser Frontier King Cab with a manual transmission and 4×2 makes 152 hp and 171 lbs.-ft. of torque and only manages 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway. So actually, considering the Navara diesel is making twice the torque and 36 more hp, that 27 mpg is admirable. If the 2.5 diesel was de-tuned to a lower hp/torque rating similar to the gas engine, it would get phenomenal gas mileage– considering the fairly substantial size and weight of the truck (for a “midsize” truck, that is), I’d call anything over 32 mpg “phenomenal” at this point.

        There’s a diesel stigma that has taken a long time to get over for a lot of Americans who remember bad old diesels of the last fuel price crisis in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Basically, only a few VW fans and those folks who have used trucks for heavy duty hauling have continued to appreciate diesel engines. That and the fact that CARB kinda holds our automotive market hostage in the name of “clean” air, making it extremely difficult for automakers to get a diesel engine into our marketplace that is “50-state” compliant. That’s a big hurdle for a lot of the manufacturers because their “global” diesel engines don’t necessarily meet CARB and/or EPA requirements either now or in the future.

      • 0 avatar
        Styles79

        We have the same engine in the D22 (first gen frontier) and that is 131hp, 224 lb/ft and gets 30mpg in 2wd form. Admittedly this is in a lighter truck. They are a blast to drive, I’ve got them doing over 100mph with no worries from the engine. The way modern diesels produce power is just amazing, so responsive once you get past the turbo spool up deadzone, and that’s only a problem from a standing start. Overtaking is achieved with a flex of the toe rather than a big downshift and a howling engine. Over here probably 90% of our pickup sales are diesel.

        i’m not sure how the YD series engines would stack up against the CARB or EPA regulations, but they are Euro 4 compliant.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Same here for me, a $26k’ish Frontier with a 6 speed manual would really float my boat.

    My old malaise era 89 Ford 150 with a 3.9 liter I-6 made about 150 hp. So, this engine would be fine for nearly everything I need to do.

    There’s a second news story here. Notice that there is no mention of FIAT or Ram.

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      Dunno about $26k’ish unless we’re talking a loaded model with the crew cab.

      But if they could get this engine in the base Frontier “King Cab” (which is as “base” a cab as they offer, and stupidly so, IMHO), with a bench seat, 6MT, 2WD, A/C, and not much else for less than $22k’ish, they’d have my complete, undivided attention when time comes to replace the Banger Ranger.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Around here, people put stacks on diesel trucks or remove the muffler and/or cat. The result is that a quiet, refined modern diesel engine becomes extremely noisy and distracting (far louder than most modified car exhausts), just so some redneck can show off to his buddies.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    The most ridiculous part of this story is it took a $15mm DOE grant for Cummins to develop an engine they already build?????????

    And none of the pickup manufacturers could figure out a 4cyl diesel would be a viable solution for high mpg????????

    WTF

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      I think maybe the DOE is hoping all us diesel fanbois on car forums like this one will actually buy the thing and prove the manufacturers wrong on what they’ve been assuming up to this point: That nobody in America will buy a half-ton pickup or smaller with a diesel engine (usually for any number of reasons…”because it would cost too much” being the leader, usually).

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It isn’t just any existing diesel engine. It is an expensive one. Just look at the option prices of the Cummins engines in medium duty Dodge Rams. This engine would cost a bit less to build, but we’re still talking about something thousands of dollars. Replacing the standard Hemi/automatic Ram 2500 powertrain with the Cummins/automatic option is over $8,500. Selecting a Cummins/manual combo saves a couple grand, but it includes a lower spec engine in addition to the loss of the standard automatic from the gas drivetrain. It seems to me that this 4 cylinder engine would typically be fitted to trucks that don’t have 390 hp V8s standard. While the 4 may be cheaper to build, it will also be an option over an engine that is cheaper to build. THAT’s why the government had to fund this simple exercise in claiming an existing commercial engine is something new.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    It is about time that somebody does this. Many buyers do not really need 300+ hp and 800-lb./ft. of torque from a diesel pickup.

    At work, we got tired of waiting for the forever promised smaller diesel pickup. Instead, we built our own using an all-original ’72 F250 and added a P-pumped Cummins 4BTA with a M5R2 Ford/Mazda 5-speed. Now we have a truck that has plenty of power (130-hp & 325-lb./ft.) and still gets in the high-20s commuting.

  • avatar
    tanooki2003

    A Titan??? Why not put this engine in a Frontier? Not everybody needs a super sized big rig when contemplating on buying a truck.

  • avatar
    kwong

    I’m glad someone is finally making this happen. However, I wish someone would make a <2.4L I4 turbodiesel light-duty or compact pick-up. I thought Ford could have worked on the Fiesta TDCI engine and transplant it into a Ranger. I'm sure you could get 100hp, 250ft-lbs, 38mpg, and have a decent payload capacity. I love my 2001 Golf TDI and always thought the engine would be great for a small pickup.

  • avatar

    This engine may make the Titan van more attractive. As it is, its floor is annoyingly high, unlike Sprinter. It all depends on the cost.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I’m not buying the comments about reliability of turbo diesel engines. Most large trucks and buses run on these engines and that would not be the cases if that design wasn’t suitable for the long haul. I also doubt a quad cam V8 (like Ford’s) will do any better.

    I think the 4 cyl diesel is great idea – particularly if they also make it available in their vans.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      “I’m not buying the comments about reliability of turbo diesel engines.”

      Talk to anyone who has owned a new Navistar powered vehicle in the last decade. Our local school district contracted out to a company that had a brand new fleet of Navistar powered schoolbuses. They were always braking down, shooting oil and/or having starting issues. Ford paid Navistar to create a new diesel (VT365/6.0 PowerStroke) for their 2003 and up Superduty pickups. The engine had multiple issues and warranty claims wound up costing Ford hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Your not buying the comments from the fleet guys?
    Well the EPA force fed these extreme low emission levels.
    So you’ve got particulate traps (that use a lot of fuel to afterburn the carbon downstream of the engine), massive doses of EGR, lowered compression to cut Nox (significantly less efficiency) and urea injection.

    So emissions are reduced, but at a large cost in initial purchase price and reduced reliability and increased fuel consumption. That’s why you see diesels all over Europe and almost nowhere in USA light duty.

    One thing nobody mentioned, a big industrial 4cyl diesel like this is one shaking sob.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    $15,000,000 to pull the gas engine and demonstrate a Cummins bolted to a Titan? Gets up to 30 MPG on paper? OK, it’s built, let’s test it.

    You may think you want a diesel but nothing kills love of diesels faster than owning one. Owned simple 5.7s, 6.2s, 6.9s, 7.3s and life was great. Then came timing sensors, computers, emissions, DPFs, urea injection, water cooled high temp EGRs, high compression, high pressure oil, high pressure fuel injection, mandatory smog tests.

    A whole industry was created for diesel pickup truck repair as regular auto repair shops don’t have a fracken clue. Blown head gaskets are just part of modern high temp diesels. Even high mileage diesels never needed head gaskets and I’d do the injectors and glow plugs right in the driveway. Today, forget it.

  • avatar
    AJ

    I so want a diesel in my Jeep.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    The 2.8 liter VM Motori CRD four in my folks’ ’06 Liberty is awesome. Great engine. Quiet for a diesel and 31-32 mpg at 65 mph in the 4300 pound Jeeplet.

    Now a Cummins this size in a pickup truck would just rule.

    • 0 avatar
      Tommy Boy

      Ditto both comments on the Jeep Liberty CRD on this thread. I’ve a 2006, bought new — the availability of the small diesel was the only reason I purchased the Jeep (otherwise I would have defaulted to a Japanese brand for quality purposes). When the EGR goes, I’m researching if I can unplug the MAP sensor to bypass it without having a constant CEL on (the Lost KJ web site has some discussion about this).

      No urea injection or DPF, I’m maintaining this thing at better than by the book to try to hold on to it for a long time, since it appears that future diesels are going to be emissions-imposed complexity, and thus maintenance as they get older, nightmares (not to mention accompanying declines in efficiency and fuel economy). Similar to what folks with complex hybrids are soon to discover as those vehicles are now starting to get up there.

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    To those who complain that the clean diesels are more complicated and less reliable than the old way:

    Sorry, but you can’t store the soot from your diesel in my lungs any more. If it costs you more, too bad. That is entirely your problem. Every person from every political persuasion – and particularly libertarians – should love the fact that another externality has been eliminated from the market.

    Next up, you can’t put the C02 from your car in the atmosphere without providing a means of removing an equal amount somewhere else at your cost.

    Done and lets move on.


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