| 6:00 AM EST

A Deep-Dive Into the Rotary Engine

Yes, the rotary engine may be a thing of the past for auto, but this inventor thinks he has a way that will make it more appealing
#Hyundai #Ferrari #Mazda


Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon


RX-8 engine

Rotary engine in the Mazda RX-8. (Image: Mazda)

The rotary engine has been around since the early 20th century. But it didn’t come to autos until the second half of the century. The “Wankel” engine was licensed by a long list of OEMs but its deployment is best known in Mazdas, the company that put the rotary engine under the hoods of a variety of vehicles, the last of which was the RX-8. Production ceased in 2012.

Simple Design

Although the rotary engine is compact and simple—as in no pistons, camshafts, etc.—with a quasi-triangular shape (the lines between the points of the triangle are arcs, not straight lines) moving in an eccentric orbit within a combustion chamber.

Vexing Problems

Reasons why Mazda stopped producing the engines include not-stellar fuel efficiency and emissions issues, both largely predicated on compression problems, which lead to incomplete combustion such that there was unburned fuel after the spark.

Potential Solutions

Former Mazda technician and inventor Ernie Brink thinks that he has come up with design modifications that address these drawbacks of the rotary engine and he talks about it on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with Autoline’s John McElroy, Todd Lassa of Automobile Magazine and me.

What’s more, Brink provides demonstrations of the way the Wankel works—even using an air compressor to rotate the rotor.

Hyundai 2025 plan
How Hyundai plans to transform itself. (Image: Hyundai)

Hyundai Pursues Mobility

After the deep-dive into the rotary engine John, Todd and I discuss a variety of subjects, including the 2020 Hyundai Sonata as well as Hyundai’s just-announced $52-billion investment in R&D that is to transform the company into what it calls a “Smart Mobility Solution Provider” by 2021.

Movie Reviews

For automotive movie enthusiasts, John and Todd provide their reviews of Ford v Ferrari and I note the proliferation of McLarens in Hobbs and Shaw.

2019’s Likely Big Finish

We also discuss how Toyota’s Bob Carter thinks the year will finish with sales of about 17 million and how (1) Camry will remain the top-selling car in the industry and (2) RAV4 will be the best-selling vehicle that’s not a pickup truck—with sales on the order of 425,000.

And there’s more, all of which you can see right here.


  • 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Blue

    A young(ish) guy that I’ve known for a number of years, a man who spent the better part of his career writing for auto buff books and who is a car racer on the side, mentioned to me that his wife has a used Lexus ES Hybrid.

  • 2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler

    The thing about the Wrangler Willys Wheeler: It is a toy for a grown-up boy.

  • Developing the 10th-Generation Honda Civic

    The 2016 model is all-new. As in platform and everything else. And the platform—which will have global use—was developed in North America.