Mazda Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Wankel Rotary Engine

By: Kraig Johanssen

Mazda has recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of Mazda's first Wankel rotary engine powered vehicle. It was on May 30, 1967 that Mazda started selling the world's first dual-rotor RE car, the Cosmo Sport and ever since has produced almost two million rotary-engined vehicles.

The first ever Wankel-engined auto was the NSU (now the famous Audi) Wankel Spider which was launched in 1964. Other automakers such Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, Norton, Suzuki, General Motors, Citroen, John Deere, and Arctic Cat have tried experimenting with the Wankel engine. Some were even able to produce small runs of the Wankel engine. However, the only successful manufacturer that was able to produce the engine designed by the German engineer Felix Wankel in quantities is Mazda.

By end of the 1950s, many automakers around the world have dedicated considerable Research & Development resources for the production of the rotary engine (RE) however most have surrendered because they were unable to surpass the difficult technical challenges that comes with the technology. It was only Mazda that has persevered and eventually was able to overcome all the obstacles and successfully achieved RE mass production. Mazda was also able to introduce other RE vehicles into the market that includes the Familia Rotary Coupe, Savanna, RX-7, and the Eunos Cosmo.

And of course knowing Mazda they have continuously developed the economy and environmental performance of their RE-engined vehicles that is why they are still selling them today.

The maker of the famous , Mazda has started its involvement in motor sports in 1968 following the release of the Cosmo Sport when RE cars has started participating in car races. Then in 1991, the Mazda 787B made history with the rotary engine when it became the only Japanese car ever to claim victory at the Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race. And ever since over 100 win in both the touring car series in Japan and in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) series in the United States was won by RE-equipped racecars.

The RX-8 sports car that was launched last April of 2003 was powered by a new-generation, naturally aspirated RENESIS rotary engine which is more compact, more powerful, and more environmentally friendly than its predecessors. Britain's specialist technology magazine, Engine Technology International has awarded the RENESIS the most coveted International Engine of the Year award in 2003 as well as the successive awards for its engine class in 2003 and 2004 to show high regards for this engine.

Presently, Mazda is progressing with its development of the hydrogen RE which gives off no carbon dioxide (CO2) one of the gases responsible for global warming. The development of the hydrogen RE started in 1991 and so far has resulted in the development of the RX-8 Hydrogen RE, which last February 2006 has became the world's first ever hydrogen RE vehicle to be commercially leased. There are seven hydrogen RE vehicles that under commercial lease traveling the road of Japan.

About Wankel Rotary Engine

The Wankel rotary engine is a type of internal combustion engine, invented by German Engineer Felix Wandel, which uses a rotor instead of reciprocating pistons. Such design delivers smooth high-rpm power from a compact lightweight engine.

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