The Past and Future of the Diesel Engine Industry - Diesel Mechanic Guide

The Past and Future of the Diesel Engine Industry

When Rudolph Diesel developed the engine that would bear his name in 1892, he created one of the world’s most important engine designs and one that continues to be a vital part of America and the world’s transport and energy infrastructure.

From commercial trucks to marine engines, generators and the small engines that power lawnmowers and other household systems, the diesel engine remains in common use the world over.

In fact, the modern diesel industry is continuing to show dynamic growth well into the 21st century.

What is a Diesel Engine

A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine, but unlike a gasoline engine the fuel is ignited by compression injection, or igniting the fuel by heating it up by compressing it, rather than by using a spark. This provides the diesel design with a number of advantages over gasoline engines.

Among the advantages are the following:

  • The diesel engine has superior thermal and fuel efficiency when compared to gasoline engines, enabling it to do more work with less fuel.
  • Diesel engines produce less carbon dioxide than gasoline engines, reducing their impact on the global climate.
  • Diesel fuel is less flammable than gasoline, reducing the danger of engine related fires.
  • Because diesel engines do not require a complex spark ignition system to operate, they are somewhat more reliable than gasoline engines.
  • Finally, diesel engines can tolerate a wide range of fuel types, making it easier to modify a diesel engine to run on biodiesel and other modern fuel blends.

The Modern Diesel Engine Industry

Diesel engines are widely used in a wide range of commercial, government and consumer applications.

The diesel engine’s simplicity, power efficiency and durability when compared to gasoline engines make it ideal for applications that require near continuous operation. Among the most common industrial applications are the following:

Commercial Vehicles

Trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles are some of the most common users of diesel engines. In the United States, this is actually one of the core components of the diesel engine industry.

In general, the durability, fuel, power efficiency and low maintenance burden make diesel engines ideal for use with commercial vehicles that are expected to operate for a long periods of time with minimal maintenance.

Marine Vessels

Diesel engines are commonly used among private and commercial marine vessels. In addition to their superior fuel economy, diesel engines can easily be scaled up to any size required allowing a diesel system to power vessels ranging from a small private boat to the largest supertanker or container ship.

Finally, marine diesel engines can use lower quality fuel, which is an important factor in controlling shipping costs.


Most modern trains are powered by a diesel electric system, where a diesel engine runs a generator in order to power the train.

These systems are extremely reliable and are used for both passenger and cargo trains.

The reliability of the diesel engine is especially important, as most trains are required to operate continuously for days at a time.

Private Vehicles

Although diesel powered private cars and trucks have traditionally been more popular in Europe than the United States, that is starting to change. An expanding number of auto manufacturers are now offering the option to purchase a car with a diesel engine.

This may be especially important for car owners who are considering making use of environmentally safe fuel blends, due to the diesel engine’s ability to make use of many different types of fuel with only minimal modifications.

Finally, the diesel engine’s superior fuel economy makes it a wise choice for individuals seeking to reduce their monthly fuel bill.

Other Applications

Finally, diesel engines are used in a wide range of non-vehicular applications. These applications can range from lawnmowers to household diesel generators.

In addition, a wide range of large diesel generators are used to provide emergency power to hospitals, commercial freezers, police stations and other facilities that must have an uninterrupted power.

Finally, remote construction sites and other facilities that are not currently connected to a larger power grid commonly use portable diesel generators to fulfill their electrical power needs.

The Growing Diesel Industry

The diesel industry is currently quickly growing in America, driven by the growing need to adopt environmentally friendly and fuel efficient alternatives to gasoline-powered systems. Between 2010 and 2012, sales of diesel powered private vehicles increased by about 24 percent.

In fact, when compared to other environmentally friendly alternatives, such as hybrid and electric vehicles, diesel engines remain superior, not only in terms of their operating characteristics, but also due to the fact that diesel mechanics are readily available across the United States.

Becoming a Diesel Engine Mechanic

Because of these factors, becoming a diesel engine mechanic can be an excellent choice for someone seeking to enter a well-compensated field with abundant employment opportunities.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics currently estimates that there were over 242,000 jobs in this field in 2010, and that number is expected to increase by at least 15 percent by 2020.

When coupled with attrition from retirement and other sources, this makes the field of diesel repair and maintenance extremely promising in terms of job opportunities for newly graduated individuals and experienced mechanics alike.

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The diesel engine has been a centerpiece of American industry for over a century. Today, the modern diesel engine is well suited to meet the environmental and technical challenges of the future.

By becoming a diesel repair or maintenance technician, an individual can position himself or herself to take part in this growing and dynamic field.