Wankel Rotary Engine

Can someone please tell me why I’ve been completely in the dark on this topic?  I’m sure it’s because I loathe the internal combustion engine in any of its forms, but I must say that I have just learned today that the Mazda RX-8 (link goes to the main Mazda USA site) is not the first car with a rotary engine.

Three things really confuse me about this.  First off, I find out that Mazda’s RX-7 has had rotary engines since the 70’s, and quite likely have the prefix “RX” as a shorthand for “Rotary Xengine” (the “x” is silent.)  Secondly, if they’ve been around for 30 years, why do more vehicles not implement them?  Thirdly, why have they just now started a wave of advertising showing off their “new” rotary engine as a primary selling feature of the RX-8?  The commercials lead any non-engine-enthusiasts to believe that it’s a brand new design, and that it’s new to the Mazda line.

Now, as the topic of this post indicates, I already knew of the existance of the Wankel Rotary Engine, first hearing of them in the “Are You Embarrassed Easily?” sketch from Monty Python’s Final Rip-off CD, starring Dr. Karl Gruber of the Institute of Going A Bit Red in Helsinki.  So now that I’m turned on to the device, which has bloody been conceived since 1924, I found some interesting reading on the topic.

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Yeah, I’ve always liked the concept behind the rotary engine.  I was going to point you to the How Things Work article, but you already found it.

As that says, some of the main reasons they aren’t more prevalent is that they’re a bit harder to manufacture and that there simply hasn’t been nearly as much research into them.  They’re far simpler in operation, though, that’s for sure.

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