History of Wankel engines

The Wankel engine (also known as the rotary piston engine or rotary piston engine) is an internal combustion engine invented in 1954 by German mechanical engineer Felix Heinrich Wankel as an alternative to the classic reciprocating piston engine.

After some technical improvements by engineer Hanns Dieter Paschke, the Wankel engine was first presented to experts and the press in 1960 at an event organized by the Association of German Engineers (VDI) in Munich.

In the 1960s, Wankel engines were the talk of the automotive and motorcycle industries due to their simplicity, smooth running and high power density. NSU Motorenwerke AG attracted a great deal of attention in August 1967 for its ultra-modern NSU Ro 80 passenger car, which was powered by a 115-hp Wankel engine with two pistons. It was the first German car to be named "Car of the Year" in 1968.

Over the next few decades, numerous major automakers signed licensing agreements to develop Wankel rotary piston engines, including Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and Mazda.

After further improvements to the engine, including solving the apex compression problem, Mazda successfully used rotary piston engines in its RX series sports cars until 2012. The technological edge of Wankel engines in the automotive industry was highlighted in the 1991 Le Mans 24 Hours race, when a car powered by the 4-rotor Mazda 26B engine won the prestigious competition.

Today, the continuously developed Wankel rotary piston engines are used in motorcycles, racing cars, aircraft, small ships and power generators. The next stage of development relates to the application of these drives in the coming era of low-emission, climate-neutral, reliable and affordable energy supply. The successful test of the hydrogen-powered Wankel engine on September 20, 2019, allows us to look to the future with confidence.

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