In 2013, Ford will begin phasing out its 33-year-old iconic E-Series van in favor of  its new global platform, the Transit, with better fuel efficiency and greater cargo capacity than its predecessor.

So what’s to like about the Transit for fleet managers and field service organizations? While Ford hasn’t divulged many details, they’ve at least given us a tease. Here’s a glimpse into what fleet managers can expect when the new Euro-style van hits the market next year.

1. Multiple Roof-Height Configurations

Unlike the E-Series, which has a fixed roof height, the Transit will offer multiple high-roof options, which will increase cargo capacity and allow workers to stand up while accessing gear in the cargo area. The Transit will more resemble the Freightliner Sprinter and Nissan NV vans, which also offer high-roof options.

2. Lighter Weight, Better Fuel Economy

Ford says the Transit will achieve at least 25 percent better fuel economy compared to E-Series vans, as the vans will be about 300 pounds lighter. A 2012 Ford E-150 van, equipped with the 4.6-liter V-8 engine, gets 15 miles per gallon in combined city/highway fuel economy, according to A 25 percent improvement on that would come out to a 3.75 mpg increase with the Transit.

If you assume 25,000 miles per year, at $3.50 per gallon for regular unleaded gas, the Transit would save nearly $1,200 in annual fuel expense. But keep in mind that this is a rough estimate — Ford’s 25 percent fuel-savings projection doesn’t take into consideration engine type (gasoline vs. diesel) and size, which also directly impacts fuel economy.

3. Powertrain Options

Ford has announced that the Transit’s gasoline engine will be the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, which is also used in its F-150 pickups. Will customers used to operating V-8 engines in their vans balk at “downsizing” to a V-6?

“The best indicator is to look at the success we had with the same engine in the F-150, where many people thought that half-ton truck buyers would not adopt a turbo-charged V-6,” said Mike Levine, Ford’s commercial truck communications manager. “And the latest numbers we have are that 43 percent of F-150 engine mix is EcoBoost (a V-6). So, it has been a very successful engine for us.”

While the actual horsepower and torque ratings of the Transit’s EcoBoost engine are not disclosed, the same engine in F-150 produces 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft torque — comparable ratings to most V-8 engines. According to Ford, the EcoBoost V-6 engine will give Transit customers a more fuel-efficient engine, without sacrificing power.

Levine also said that, unlike the E-Series that’s equipped with the 5.4-liter V-8 and four-speed automatic transmission, the Transit’s EcoBoost V-6 will be coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission, contributing to even greater fuel savings. The Transit will also offer a diesel engine, though Levine could not discuss specifics.

Currently, the E-Series offers three gasoline engines (a V-6, V-8 and V-10) and no diesel engine option.

4. Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings

Gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) refers to the maximum amount of total weight a vehicle can safely haul, including the weight of the vehicle, all fluids, the driver and passengers, and any cargo. Will Transit offer similar — or better — GVWRs to the E-Series? Ford hasn’t yet disclosed weight ratings for the Transit, but Levine said, “We’ll have comparable Transits to replace E-Series with.”

The E-Series cargo and passenger vans today are available in half-ton (E-150), three-quarter ton (E-250) and one-ton (E-350), with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) ranging from 8,520 to 9,500 pounds.

The Bottom Line

So, the big question: When can you expect to be able to buy a Transit? “Production starts next year (2013), but we have not set the ‘on-sale’ date,” Levine said. “It is worth noting that E-Series production for cargo and passenger vans will continue into 2014. So, there will be a point where you could buy E-Series cargo and passenger vans right alongside Transit vans.”

While the cargo and passenger configurations would be fully phased out after 2014, Levine said that Ford would continue to build E-Series cutaway models for “most of the rest of the decade.”

The bottom line: A new look, new engine options, better fuel economy, and availability in 2013 — that’s what we know so far. It sounds promising, and as more details emerge we’ll keep you posted.

More: Six Ways to Cut Costs and Preserve Profits from Vehicle Operations.

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ABOUT Sean Lyden

Avatar photoSean is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a content strategy and editorial consulting firm, and also serves as editor for Utility Fleet Professional magazine. A nationally recognized feature writer on sales, marketing, technology and transportation topics, Sean is also a contributing author to "The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide” and “The Great Big Book of Business Lists,” both books published by Entrepreneur Press.