Infamous Wankel Rotary Engine Revolutionized by Mazda

Infamous Wankel Rotary Engine Revolutionized by Mazda

rotary engine internals in the center of a black background

In the realm of automotive engineering, few innovations have sparked as much intrigue and fascination as the Wankel rotary engine. Named after German engineer Felix Wankel the small engine setup popularized by Mazda as the unique powerplant is a testament to the pursuit of innovation in an industry largely dominated by conventional piston engines. At its core, the Wankel rotary engine represents a departure from the traditional reciprocating motion of pistons found in most internal combustion engines. Instead, it operates on a principle of rotational motion, offering distinct advantages in efficiency, size, and smoothness.

grey photo of man in a suit with glasses standing behind an engine part
Felix Wankel posing with a compact, but powerful rotary engine.
Source: Audi

The fundamental operation of the Wankel rotary engine is ingeniously simple yet remarkably effective. Unlike piston engines, which rely on the repetitive up-and-down motion of pistons within cylinders to generate power, the rotary engine features a triangular rotor that rotates in an epitrochoidal (or oval) chamber. This rotor, known as the eccentric shaft, effectively replaces the multiple pistons and connecting rods found in piston engines. As the rotor rotates within the chamber, it completes the intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust cycles in a continuous motion, resulting in a smooth and uninterrupted flow of power.

aerial shot of a rotary engine inside of an engine bay
20B rotary engine found in the Eunos Cosmo
Source: Mazda

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