As higher gas prices drive people towards more fuel efficient vehicles, manufacturers are spending huge quantities of time, money, and other resources to squeeze the greatest amount of efficiency from the smallest possible source. Ten and 12-cylinder engines are becoming few and far between, and eight-cylinders are rapidly being phased out by more potent forced-induction sixers.
The trend is unlikely to slow down soon either, as Ford (NYSE:F) is projecting that four-cylinder engines will make up 66 percent of U.S. auto sales by 2020. While higher gas prices are pushing consumers towards smaller displacement engines, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (or CAFE) standards are requiring manufacturers to have a fleet average MPG rating of 54.5 by the same year.
As a result, hybrid technologies are becoming increasingly permeated throughout the industry, and larger displacement engines are being let go to help bring the CAFE ratings up. While some purists and performance enthusiasts may mourn the downfall of the double-digit-cylinder power plants, the race for efficiency has had at least one significant upside: smaller engines are now far more potent than ever before, and manufacturers are now able to get better performance from a V6 than a V8 several years ago, but in general, without the detriment to fuel consumption.