Despite its simplicity and scant number of moving parts, the Wankel or rotary engine remains a mystery to many automotive enthusiasts. Thanks to a tip from Motor City Garage, we can share this YouTube video that explains the engine’s operation in very easy-to-understand language and with clever illustrations.
Think of the design in geometric terms, and the assignment gets off to a great start. Put a conventional 4-stroke ICE cylinder next to a Wankel and it’s easy to see both the differences and benefits. The Wankel has no poppet valves, and the Wankel has three combustion events with every rotation while the 4-stroke needs two crankshaft revolutions for every single combustion event.
Perhaps the most mysterious function of the Wankel rotary is transferring rotational energy of the rotor to the eccentric shaft. The unique arrangement that transfers the power results in the output shaft turning three times for every rotation of the rotor. Double or triple up on the number of rotors, and you get a very powerful, efficient engine.
Although the promotional video predicts the rotary will replace the reciprocating-piston engine, the rest of the tech information is pretty solid. Take a look and learn something if you’re unfamiliar with the Wankel. And if you want to see the artistic and performance potential of a rotary, check out these stories on the beautifully photographed assembly of a 4-rotor engine and go inside a wicked and totally outrageous 12-rotor Wankel engine.