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Here’s What Marked The End For The Rotary Engine


The traditional piston engine is the most prevalent internal combustion engine in the automotive industry, valued for its power, durability, and adaptability to turbocharging and modifications. However, the rotary engine, a more intriguing configuration, has largely disappeared. Mazda was the last automaker to use it, notably in the RX-7 and RX-8 sports cars. The rotary engine’s decline was due to numerous issues, making ownership stressful and expensive.

Rotary engines, unlike piston engines, have a small displacement but high horsepower, though with poor fuel economy. Developed by Felix Wankel over 70 years ago, Mazda began using rotary engines in the 1963 Cosmo prototype, eventually adding another rotor for increased power. The RX-8, last produced in 2012, featured the 13B-MSP Renesis rotary engine, which was known for its horsepower but also its unreliability and tendency to break down, leading to costly repairs.

The rotary engine’s unique appeal lies in its sound and high-revving nature, which can’t be replicated by piston engines, offering a distinct driving experience. However, several issues led to its decline. The rotary engine burns oil by design, requiring frequent oil checks and resulting in higher emissions. It also has poor thermal efficiency and torque output, with easily damaged apex seals causing premature failures. The final blows were its poor fuel economy and inability to meet tightening emissions standards, particularly the Euro 5 standards, leading to its discontinuation in Europe.

Mazda has hinted at reviving the rotary engine, potentially as a range extender in electric vehicles. Such as the MX-30 hybrid rotary. While the rotary engine remains popular among enthusiasts, it is unlikely to return in traditional forms. This is due to stringent emissions regulations and the industry’s shift towards more efficient, low-emission engines. The rotary’s niche appeal continues, but practical daily driving solutions have moved on to better options.
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