The automotive industry is trending towards cylinder deactivation to save fuel, but Honda appears to be going even further in that direction. AutoGuide reports that the Japanese carmaker is working on a true variable displacement system that can adjust the stroke of each piston.

The design, found in a patent filed by Honda at the Japanese patent office database, would allow each cylinder to change its displacement. Current cylinder deactivation systems only enable an engine to have a limited amount of different capacities. For example, a 2.0 litre four-cylinder engine which measures 500 cc per cylinder can only vary its displacement in four ways, depending on how many cylinders are firing – 500 cc, 1,000 cc, 1,500 cc and 2,000 cc.

By contrast, the new technology will enable a four-cylinder engine to essentially offer up to 15 different displacements (, with a smaller gap between each of them. The patent also included illustrations of how such a system would work on a two- and three-cylinder engine, as well as a V6.

This technology could save fuel, but could also be used to improve the engine’s efficiency – Honda introduced the Extended Expansion Linkage Engine (EXLink) concept in 2001 (which culminated in the mass production of a Household Cogeneration Unit in 2011) that used a similar technology to extend the expansion stroke in relation to the intake stroke, increasing the work performed by the engine while using less fuel.