How Does a Rotary Engine Work?

Author JoeC    Category Performance     Tags

Mazda rotary engineWhile the traditional piston engine remains the overwhelming favorite among performance combustion engines, there are a lot of auto enthusiasts out there who continue to be excited about the unique characteristics of the rotary engine. While you won’t find many vehicles motivated by the power of a rotary engine on the road today, there remain plenty of motivated enthusiasts who continue to tout the robust sound, commanding performance, and unusual engineering of the rotary engine. Find out how the rotary engine works, and discover some of the popular models fitted with the rotary engine.

How It Works

Like the engine under most car hoods today, the rotary engine is an internal combustion engine that works by channeling energy that is released when fuel is ignited. However, the design of the rotary engine is totally different from a traditional piston engine. Originally designed by German engineer Felix Wankel, the rotary engine utilizes a triangular rotor design that spins in a loop with a fuel and air intake system through a single engine compartment, from which it compresses and channels power. Unlike a conventional piston engine, the rotary engine works by rotating the cylinders around a single, fully integrated and unified system. One of the big benefits of this system is that because it works on a less complicated and more centralized system, there are less parts, less chance of breakdown, and easier and more affordable maintenance. Unfortunately, their powerful output and unique growling sound has the downside of generally poor fuel economy.

Vehicles with Rotary Engines

It’s been a long time since most auto manufacturers have designed a vehicle fitted with a rotary engine. However, Mazda has continued to tout the strength and value of these engines, and they’ve produced a model with a rotary engine as recently as the 2011 Mazda RX-8. While the Mazda rotary engine is not currently in production, there has been talk and rumors in recent years that they could be working on a newer version of the rotary engine that utilizes Mazda SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY to help improve this engine’s fuel economy prospects while delivering the throaty sound and gutsy performance of a genuine rotary engine.


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