History of the Diesel Engine

Here in our Texas-based diesel performance shop we never tire of talking about the remarkable story of the diesel engine. From humble beginnings, my love for the diesel engine grew until I knew I wanted it to be a part of my life and that is why I became a Humble diesel mechanic. The history of the diesel engine is a fascinating one:

1893 – The First Prototype

When Rudolph Diesel surveyed his prototype engine he could not have conceived the significance of what he had created. Seven times more efficient than the steam engine and more reliable than the gasoline engine, Diesel thought that the niche for his engine would be only in small businesses, to help them compete against larger manufacturers – he was the world’s first humble diesel mechanic. However, the diesel engine was so efficient that it soon found its way into trains, ships, factories and power stations. And despite its weight compared to the petrol engines, it eventually found its way into automobiles, luckily for us creating the need for the diesel performance shop.

1950 – 1980 – The Diesel Boom in Europe

Prior to 1950, the diesel engine had only really been used in commercial vehicles, being thought of as too sluggish for passenger cars. However, during the period of austerity which followed the Second World War, manufacturers started to see if they could make use of the efficiency and reliability offered by diesel engines. Mercedes and Peugeot, in particular, were at the head of this charge. During this period, the engines were still slow and particularly unexciting, but reliable.

1980s & 1990s – Two Big Improvements

In the opinion of this one humble diesel mechanic, there were two advancements, which transformed diesel engines, particularly for use in passenger cars. Firstly, in 1980, the first turbocharged diesel unit was developed. The turbo compressed the air before the fuel was injected and the increased number of molecules drastically improved the power output of the engine. This also improved the efficiency of the engine, as you no longer had to drive them so hard to reach and maintain a decent speed. Perhaps even more significant than the turbo was the advent of direct-injection common-rail engines developed in the mid-1990s. This involved using electronics to increase the control over fuel being delivered to the injectors. This meant the combustion process was more efficient and waste was reduced, resulting in the performance and economy we associate with diesel cars today. Diesel engines shake a lot, however, so these delicate electronics in that environment are a big reason why you should get your diesel car serviced at your local diesel performance shop regularly.

2000-2016 – The Diesel Engine Now

The direct-injection common-rail advancement also led to huge emissions gains for the diesel engine. As the environmental agenda has become more and more important to the governments of the world, many incentives have been made available to get people to buy diesel cars. This is especially true in Europe where diesel cars account for 50% of new cars sold each year. This is of course in addition to the fleets of commercial vehicles powered by diesel engines all around the world.

So there you have it, a brief history of the diesel engine. It’s the opinion of this Humble diesel mechanic in this diesel performance shop that she