INDIANAPOLIS -- Ford's full-size Transit commercial van will come with the company's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine when it debuts in 2013, executives announced Monday on the eve of the opening of the Work Truck Show.

The EcoBoost V-6 in the new rear-wheel-drive Transit will complement the van's driving dynamics and technology, making it a perfect replacement for Ford's venerable E-Series wagon and van in North America, said Rob Stevens, chief engineer for Ford Commercial Truck.

The Transit will get up to 25% better fuel economy than similar E-Series vans, partly because of the engine's efficiency and also because the new van will weigh about 300 pounds less, he said. That means customers could save thousands of dollars in operating costs from fuel savings alone.

The current-generation Transit van is the best-selling van in Europe, Stevens said. Ford has sold more than 6 million Transits across five continents since its original launch in 1965. The European Transit is currently offered in cargo, passenger and chassis-cab configurations with diesel engines.

It is built in Turkey, along with the compact Transit Connect that has already become popular in North America. The North American Transits might get diesels later, executives previously said.

To get ready for production in the U.S. by 2013, Ford is investing $1.1 billion in its Kansas City assembly plant, where the Transit will be built alongside the F-150, Stevens said.

The popular Ohio-built E-series cargo van and passenger wagon will be phased out sometime after the Transit's launch, with E cutaways and stripped chassis to last for several more years. Meanwhile, F-650 and 750 production will be moved from Mexico to Ohio.

EcoBoost engines are fundamental to the Ford strategy of providing technologically advanced, high-output, smaller-displacement powertrains. The V-6 is double turbocharged and direct injected for high performance and fuel economy that's 20% better than a V-8 with comparable power, said John Coleman, Ford's recently appointed manager for sustainability and technology.

"Twenty percent fuel savings. That's like everybody walking to work on Friday," he commented.

Meanwhile, Ford is committed to commercial trucks and alternative fuels, said Eric Guenther, general marketing manager for commercial trucks, noting its 47.6% market share in Class 1 through 7 trucks last year and its variety of gaseous fuel prep packages.

Several Ford-approved upfitters can install compressed natural gas and propane conversions to engines in E- and F-Series trucks, and some have been available since 2009, Guenther said. The latest is the gasoline V-10 in the Class 6 F-650.

He was responding to a General Motors announcement yesterday of a similar option that will be available late this year. On display in the Ford booth at the show is a Westport dual-fuel gasoline-CNG option that's available now.