While cylinder deactivation is hardly commonplace in modern engines, it's certainly not unheard of, especially from automakers hoping to eek out a little better fuel economy from larger displacement mills. It's not just for pickup trucks either; Lamborghini and Mercedes-Benz both shut down cylinders as a solution in some of their vehicles. However, automotive supplier Schaeffler thinks that there might be a reason to bring the tech to some of the smallest engines on the market – namely, three-cylinders.

Don't laugh just yet. According to Ward's Auto, Schaeffler has adapted its cylinder deactivation tech for inline-three engines. When less power is needed, the equipped threes would run with just two cylinders firing.

In some ways, the odd notion of cruising around with just an inline-two makes some sense. With the current technology, each group of valves to be deactivated needs its own roller finger followers (pictured above). While an automaker might need four sets of these components for a V8, it would only need one for an inline-three. That makes it a lot cheaper to implement.

The glaring problem with Schaeffler's design is that the gains from cylinder deactivation for such small engines aren't exactly huge. These aren't gas-guzzlers, after all. The company claims that the technology boosts economy by at least three percent – every little bit helps, though.

Autoblog reached out to Schaeffler for more information on the cylinder deactivation for inline-three engines, but the company had no comment "due to customer agreements."

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