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The Wankel engine is a type of internal combustion engine using an eccentric rotary design to convert pressure into a rotating motion instead of using reciprocating pistons. Its four-stroke cycle takes place in a space between the inside of an oval-like epitrochoid-shaped housing and a rotor that is similar in shape to a Reuleaux triangle but with sides that are somewhat flatter. The very compact Wankel engine delivers smooth high-rpm power. It is commonly called a rotary engine, though this name applies also to other completely different designs.

The engine was invented by German engineer Felix Wankel. He received his first patent for the engine in 1929, began development in the early 1950s at NSU, completing a working prototype in 1957. NSU then licensed the concept to companies around the world, which have continued to improve the design. It is the only internal combustion engine invented in the twentieth century to go into production.

Thanks to their compact design, Wankel rotary engines have been installed in a variety of vehicles and devices including automobiles, motorcycles, racers, aircraft, go-karts, jet skis, snowmobiles, chain saws, and auxiliary power units.

History

In 1951, the German engineer Felix Wankel began development of the engine at NSU Motorenwerke AG, where he first conceived his rotary engine in 1954 (DKM 54, Drehkolbenmotor). The KKM 57 (the Wankel rotary engine, Kreiskolbenmotor) was constructed by NSU engineer Hanns Dieter Paschke in 1957 without the knowledge of Felix Wankel, who remarked "you have turned my race horse into a plow mare". The first working prototype DKM 54 was running on February 1, 1957 at the NSU research and development department Versuchsabteilung TX. It produced 21 horsepower; unlike modern Wankel engines, both the rotor and the housing rotated. In 1960 NSU (the firm the inventor worked for) and the US firm Curtiss-Wright signed an agreement where NSU would concentrate on the development of low and medium powered Wankel engines and Curtiss-Wright would develop high powered Wankel Engines, including aircraft engines of which Curtiss-Wright had decades of experience designing and producing. Considerable effort went into designing rotary engines in the 1950s and 1960s. They were of particular interest because they were smooth and quiet running, and because of the reliability resulting from their simplicity. For a while, engineers faced what they called chattered marks and devil's scratches in the inner epitrochoid surface, they discovered that the origin was in the apex seals reaching a resonating vibration, and was solved by reducing the thickness and weight of apex seals. Another early problem of buildup of cracks in the stator surface was eliminated by installing the spark plugs in a separate metal piece instead of screwing it directly into the block. A later alternative solution to spark plug boss cooling was provided by variable coolant velocity scheme for water-cooled rotaries which has had widespread use and was patented by Curtiss-Wright, with the last-listed for better air-cooled engine spark plug boss cooling. These approaches did not require a high conductivity copper insert but did not preclude the use. Among the manufacturers signing licensing agreements to develop Wankel engines were Alfa Romeo, American Motors, Citroën, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Suzuki, and Toyota. In the United States, in 1959 under license from NSU, Curtiss-Wright pioneered improvements in the basic engine design. In Britain, in the 1960s, Rolls Royce Motor Car Division pioneered a two-stage diesel version of the Wankel engine. Also in Britain, Norton Motorcycles developed a Wankel rotary engine for motorcycles, based on the Sachs air-cooled Wankel that powered the DKW/Hercules W-2000 motorcycle, which was included in their Commander and F1; Suzuki also made a production motorcycle with a Wankel engine, the RE-5, where they used ferrotic alloy apex seals and an NSU rotor in a successful attempt to prolong the engine's life. In 1971 and 1972 Arctic Cat produced snowmobiles powered by 303 cc Wankel rotary engines manufactured by Sachs in Germany. Deere & Company designed a version that was capable of using a variety of fuels. The design was proposed as the power source for United States Marine Corps combat vehicles and other equipment in the late 1980s. Mazda and NSU signed a study contract to develop the Wankel engine in 1961 and competed to bring the first Wankel powered automobile to market. Although Mazda produced an experimental Wankel that year, NSU was first with a Wankel automobile on sale, the sporty NSU Spider in 1964; Mazda countered with a display of two and four rotor Wankel engines at that year's Tokyo Motor Show. In 1967, NSU began production of a Wankel-engined luxury car, the Ro 80. However, problems with apex seal wear led to frequent engine failure, which led to large warranty costs for NSU, and curtailed further Wankel engine development. Mazda, however, claimed to have solved the apex seal problem, and was able to run test engines at high speed for 300 hours without failure. After years of development, Mazda's first Wankel engine car was the 1967 Cosmo 110S. The company followed with a number of Wankel ("rotary" in the company's terminology) vehicles, including a bus and a pickup truck. Customers often cited the cars' smoothness of operation. However, Mazda chose a method to comply with hydrocarbon emission standards that, while less expensive to produce, increased fuel consumption, just before a sharp rise in fuel prices. Mazda later abandoned the Wankel in most of their automotive designs, but continued using it in their RX-7 sports car until August 2002 (RX-7 importation for Canada ceased with only the 1993 year being sold. The USA ended with the 1994 model year with remaining unsold stock being carried over as the '1995' year.). The company normally used two-rotor designs, but the 1991 Eunos Cosmo used a twin-turbo three-rotor engine. In 2003, Mazda introduced the Renesis engine with the RX-8. The Renesis engine relocated the ports for exhaust and intake from the periphery of the rotary housing to the sides, allowing for larger overall ports, better airflow, and further power gains. Early Wankel engines had also side intake and exhaust ports, but the concept was abandoned because of carbon buildup in ports and side of rotor. The Renesis engine solved the problem by using a keystone scraper side seal, and approached the thermal distortion difficulties by adding some parts made of ceramic. The Renesis is capable of delivering 238 hp (177 kW) with better fuel economy, reliability, and environmental friendliness than previous Mazda rotary engines, all from a nominal 1.3 L displacement, however this was not enough to keep up with ever more stringent emissions standards. Mazda ceased production of their Wankel engine in 2012 after the engine failed to meet the Euro 5 emission standard. In 1961, the Soviet research organization of NATI, NAMI and VNIImotoprom started experimental development, and created experimental engines with different technologies.

Soviet automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ also experimented with the use of Wankel engines in cars but without the benefit of a license. In 1974 they created a special engine design bureau, which in 1978 designed an engine designated as VAZ-311. In 1980, the company started delivering Wankel-powered VAZ-2106s (VAZ-411 engine with two-rotors) and Ladas, mostly to security services, of which about 200 were made. The next models were the VAZ-4132 and VAZ-415. Aviadvigatel, the Soviet aircraft engine design bureau, is known to have produced Wankel engines with electronic injection for aircraft and helicopters, though little specific information has surfaced.

Although many manufacturers licensed the design, including Citroën with their M35 and GS Birotor, using engines produced by Comotor, General Motors, which seems to have concluded that the Wankel engine was slightly more expensive to build than an equivalent reciprocating engine, although claiming having solved the fuel economy issue, but failed in obtaining acceptable exhaust emissions, and Mercedes-Benz which used it for their C111 concept car, only Mazda has produced Wankel engines in large numbers. American Motors (AMC) was so convinced "... that the rotary engine will play an important role as a powerplant for cars and trucks of the future....", according to Chairman Roy D. Chapin Jr., that the smallest U.S. automaker signed an agreement in February 1973, after a year's negotiations, to build Wankels for both passenger cars and Jeeps, as well as the right to sell any rotary engines it produces to other companies. The automaker's president, William Luneburg, did not expect dramatic development through 1980, but Gerald C. Meyers, AMC's vice-president of the Product (Engineering) Group, suggested that AMC would be buying the engines from Curtis-Wright before developing its own Wankel engines and predicted a total transition to rotary power by 1984. Plans called for the engine to be used in the AMC Pacer, but development was pushed back. American Motors designed the unique Pacer around the engine, even though by 1974, AMC had decided to buy the Wankel engines from GM instead of building them itself. Both GM and AMC confirmed the relationship would benefit in marketing the new engine, and AMC claimed that GM's Wankel achieved good fuel economy. However, GM's engines had not reached production when the Pacer was to hit the showrooms. Part of the demise of this feature was the 1973 oil crisis with rising fuel prices, and also concerns about proposed US emission standards legislation. General Motors did not succeed in having a Wankel engine meeting both the emission requirements and having good fuel economy, so in 1974 the company canceled its development, although GM claimed having solved the fuel economy problem and having obtained engines with a duration above 530,000 miles; unfortunately they just published a few papers on the results of their research. This meant the Pacer had to be reconfigured to house AMC's venerable AMC Straight-6 engine with rear-wheel drive.

Design

In the Wankel engine, the four strokes of a typical Otto cycle occur in the space between a three-sided symmetric rotor and the inside of a housing. The expansion phase of the Wankel cycle is much longer than that of the Otto cycle. In the basic single-rotor Wankel engine, the oval-like epitrochoid-shaped housing surrounds a rotor which is triangular with bow-shaped flanks (often confused with a Reuleaux triangle, a three-pointed curve of constant width, but with the bulge in the middle of each side a bit more flattened). The theoretical shape of the rotor between the fixed corners is the result of a minimization of the volume of the geometric combustion chamber and a maximization of the compression ratio, respectively. The symmetric curve connecting two arbitrary apexes of the rotor is maximized in the direction of the inner housing shape with the constraint that it not touch the housing at any angle of rotation (an arc is not a solution of this optimization problem).

The central drive shaft, called the eccentric shaft or E-shaft, passes through the center of the rotor and is supported by fixed bearings. The rotors ride on eccentrics (analogous to cranks) integral to the eccentric shaft (analogous to a crankshaft). The rotors both rotate around the eccentrics and make orbital revolutions around the eccentric shaft. Seals at the corners of the rotor seal against the periphery of the housing, dividing it into three moving combustion chambers. The rotation of each rotor on its own axis is caused and controlled by a pair of synchronizing gears A fixed gear mounted on one side of the rotor housing engages a ring gear attached to the rotor and ensures the rotor moves exactly 1/3 turn for each turn of the eccentric shaft. The power output of the engine is not transmitted through the synchronizing gears. The force of gas pressure on the rotor (to a first approximation) goes directly to the center of the eccentric, part of the output shaft.

The best way to visualize the action of the engine in the animation at left is to look not at the rotor itself, but the cavity created between it and the housing. The Wankel engine is actually a variable-volume progressing-cavity system. Thus there are 3 cavities per housing, all repeating the same cycle. Note as well that points A and B on the rotor and e-shaft turn at different speeds—Point B circles 3 times as often as point A does, so that one full orbit of the rotor equates to 3 turns of the e-shaft.

As the rotor rotates and orbitally revolves, each side of the rotor is brought closer to and then away from the wall of the housing, compressing and expanding the combustion chamber like the strokes of a piston in a reciprocating engine. The power vector of the combustion stage goes through the center of the offset lobe.

While a four-stroke piston engine makes one combustion stroke per cylinder for every two rotations of the crankshaft (that is, one-half power stroke per crankshaft rotation per cylinder), each combustion chamber in the Wankel generates one combustion stroke per driveshaft rotation, i.e. one power stroke per rotor orbital revolution and three power strokes per rotor rotation. Thus, power output of a Wankel engine is generally higher than that of a four-stroke piston engine of similar engine displacement in a similar state of tune; and higher than that of a four-stroke piston engine of similar physical dimensions and weight.

Wankel engines also generally have a much higher redline than a reciprocating engine of similar power output. This is in part because the smoothness inherent in circular motion, but especially because they do not have highly stressed parts such as a crankshaft or connecting rods. Eccentric shafts do not have the stress-raising internal corners of crankshafts. The redline of a rotary engine is limited by wear of the synchronizing gears. Hardened steel gears are used for extended operation above 7000 or 8000 rpm. Mazda Wankel engines in auto racing are operated above 10,000 rpm. In aircraft they are used conservatively, up to 6500 or 7500 rpm. However, as gas pressure participates in seal efficiency, racing a Wankel engine at high rpm under no load conditions can destroy the engine.

National agencies that tax automobiles according to displacement and regulatory bodies in automobile racing variously consider the Wankel engine to be equivalent to a four-stroke engine of 1.5 to 2 times the displacement; some racing series ban it altogether.

Engineering

Felix Wankel managed to overcome most of the problems that made previous rotary engines fail by developing a configuration with vane seals that had a tip radius equal to the amount of "oversize" of the rotor housing form, as compared to the theoretical epitrochoid, to minimize radial apex seal motion plus introducing a cylindrical gas-loaded apex pin which abutted all sealing elements to seal around the 3 planes at each rotor apex.

Rotary engines have a thermodynamic problem not found in reciprocating four-stroke engines in that their "cylinder block" operates at steady state, with intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust occurring at fixed housing locations for all "cylinders". In contrast, reciprocating engines perform these four strokes in one chamber, so that extremes of "freezing" intake and "flaming" exhaust are averaged and shielded by a boundary layer from overheating working parts.

The boundary layer shields and the oil film act as thermal insulation, leading to a low temperature of the lubricating film (max. ~200 °C/400 °F) on a water-cooled Wankel engine. This gives a more constant surface temperature. The temperature around the spark plug is about the same as the temperature in the combustion chamber of a reciprocating engine. With circumferential or axial flow cooling, the temperature difference remains tolerable.

Four-stroke reciprocating engines are less suitable for hydrogen. The hydrogen can misfire on hot parts like the exhaust valve and spark plugs. Another problem concerns the hydrogenate attack on the lubricating film in reciprocating engines. In a Wankel engine, this problem is circumvented by using a ceramic apex seal against a ceramic surface: there is no oil film to suffer hydrogenate attack. The piston shell must be lubricated and cooled with oil. This substantially increases the lubricating oil consumption in a four-stroke hydrogen engine.

Materials

Unlike a piston engine, where the cylinder is cooled by the incoming charge after being heated by combustion, Wankel rotor housings are constantly heated on one side and cooled on the other, leading to high local temperatures and unequal thermal expansion. While this places high demands on the materials used, the simplicity of the Wankel makes it easier to use alternative materials like exotic alloys and ceramics. With water cooling in a radial or axial flow direction, with the hot water from the hot bow heating the cold bow, the thermal expansion remains tolerable.

Sealing

Early engine designs had a high incidence of sealing loss, both between the rotor and the housing and also between the various pieces making up the housing. Also, in earlier model Wankel engines carbon particles could become trapped between the seal and the casing, jamming the engine and requiring a partial rebuild. It was common for very early Mazda engines to require rebuilding after 50,000 miles (80,000 km). Further sealing problems arise from the uneven thermal distribution within the housings causing distortion and loss of sealing and compression. This thermal distortion also causes uneven wear between the apex seal and the rotor housing, quite evident on higher mileage engines. The problem is exacerbated when the engine is stressed before reaching operating temperature. However, Mazda Wankel engines have solved these problems. Current engines have nearly 100 seal-related parts.

The problem of clearance for hot rotor apexes passing between the axially closer side housings in the cooler intake lobe areas was dealt with by using an axial rotor pilot, radially inboard of the oils seals plus improved inertia oil cooling of the rotor interior ( C-W patents 3,261,542, C. Jones, 5/8/63, 3,176,915, M. Bentele, C.Jones. A.H. Raye. 7/2/62), and slightly "crowned" apex seals (Different height in the center and in the extremes of seal).

Fuel economy and emissions

Just as the shape of the Wankel combustion chamber is resistant to preignition and will run on lower-octane rating gasoline than a comparable piston engine, it also leads to relatively incomplete combustion of the air-fuel charge, with a larger amount of unburned hydrocarbons released into the exhaust. The exhaust is, however, relatively low in NOx emissions, as combustion temperatures are lower than in other engines, and also because of some inherent Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) in early engines; the higher the combustion temperature is, the higher the NOx emissions are (sir Harry Ricardo proved in the 1920s that for every 1% increase of the proportion of exhaust gas in the admission mix, there is a 45 °F reduction in flame temperature); this allowed Mazda to meet the United States Clean Air Act of 1970 in 1973 with a simple and inexpensive 'thermal reactor' (an enlarged open chamber in the exhaust manifold) by paradoxically enriching the air-fuel ratio to the point where the unburned hydrocarbons (HC) in the exhaust would support complete combustion in the thermal reactor; while piston-engine cars required expensive catalytic converters to deal with both unburned hydrocarbons and NOx emissions. This raised fuel consumption, however (already a weak point for the Wankel engine), at the same time that the oil crisis of 1973 raised the price of gasoline. Mazda was able to improve the fuel efficiency of the thermal reactor system by 40% by the time of introduction of the RX-7 in 1978, but eventually shifted to the catalytic converter system. According to the Curtiss-Wright research, the extreme that controls the amount of unburned HC in the exhaust is the rotor surface temperature, higher temperatures producing less HC. They showed also that the rotor can be widened, keeping the rest of engine's architecture, thus increasing displacement and power output. Quenching is the dominant source of HC at high speeds, and leakage at low speeds. Automobile Wankel rotary engines are high speed engines; however, it was shown that an early opening of the intake port, longer intake ducts, and a greater rotor eccentricity can provide the required amount of torque at low RPM, and thus elasticity. The shape and positioning of rotor recess-combustion chamber- influences emissions and fuel economy, the MDR being chosen as a compromise, but which shape of the combustion recess gives better results in terms of fuel economy and exhaust emissions varies depending on the number and placement of plugs per chamber of the individual engine.

In Mazda's RX-8 with the Renesis engine, fuel economy is now within normal limits while passing California State emissions requirements, including California's Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standards. The exhaust ports, which in earlier Mazda rotaries were located in the rotor housings, were moved to the sides of the combustion chamber; the earlier problem of ash buildup in the engine, and thermal distortion problems side intake and exhaust ports had, was solved by adding a scraper seal in the rotor sides, and by some ceramic-made added parts in the engine. This approach allowed Mazda to eliminate overlap between intake and exhaust port openings, while simultaneously increasing exhaust port area. The side port trapped the unburned fuel in the chamber, decreased the oil consumption, and improved the combustion stability in the low-speed and light load range. The HC emissions from the side exhaust port Wankel engine are 35–50% less than those from the peripheral exhaust port Wankel engine, although Peripheral Ported RCEs have a better MEP, specially at high rpm and with a rectangular shaped intake port (SAE paper 288A).

Advantages

Wankel engines are considerably lighter, simpler, and contain far fewer moving parts than piston engines of equivalent power output. For instance, because valving is accomplished by simple ports cut into the walls of the rotor or side housings, they have no valves or complex valve trains; in addition, since the rotor rides directly on a large bearing on the output shaft, there are no connecting rods and there is no crankshaft. The elimination of reciprocating mass and the elimination of the most highly stressed and failure prone parts of piston engines gives the Wankel engine high reliability, a smoother flow of power, and a high power-to-weight ratio.

The surface/volume-ratio problem is so complex that one cannot make a direct comparison between a reciprocating piston engine and a Wankel engine in the surface/volume ratio. The flow velocity and the heat losses behave quite differently. Surface temperatures behave absolutely differently; the film of oil in the Wankel engine acts as insulation. Engines with a higher compression ratio have a worse surface/volume ratio. The surface/volume ratio of a Diesel engine is much worse than a gasoline engine, but Diesel engines are well known for a higher efficiency factor than gasoline engines. Thus, engines with equal power should be compared: a naturally aspirated 1.3-liter Wankel engine with a naturally aspirated 1.3-liter four-stroke reciprocating piston engine with equal power. But such a four-stroke engine is not possible and needs twice the displacement for the same power as a Wankel engine. The extra or "empty" stroke(s) should not be ignored, as a 4-stroke cylinder produces a power stroke only every other rotation of the crankshaft. This doubles the real surface/volume ratio for the four-stroke reciprocating piston engine and the demand of displacement. The Wankel, therefore, has higher volumetric efficiency and a lower pumping loss through the absence of choking valves. Because of the quasi-overlap of the power strokes that cause the smoothness of the engine and the avoidance of the 4-stroke cycle in a reciprocating engine, the Wankel engine is very quick to react to throttle changes and is able to quickly deliver a surge of power when the demand arises, especially at higher rpm. This difference is more pronounced when compared to four-cylinder reciprocating engines and less pronounced when compared to higher cylinder counts.

In addition to the removal of internal reciprocating stresses by virtue of the complete removal of reciprocating internal parts typically found in a piston engine, the Wankel engine is constructed with an iron rotor within a housing made of aluminium, which has a greater coefficient of thermal expansion. This ensures that even a severely overheated Wankel engine cannot seize, as would be likely to occur in an overheated piston engine. This is a substantial safety benefit of use in aircraft. In addition, valves and valve trains that do not exist cannot burn out, jam, break, or malfunction in any way, again increasing safety.

A further advantage of the Wankel engine for use in aircraft is the fact that a Wankel engine generally has a smaller frontal area than a piston engine of equivalent power, allowing a more aerodynamic nose to be designed around it. The simplicity of design and smaller size of the Wankel engine also allows for savings in construction costs, compared to piston engines of comparable power output.

Wankel engines that operate within their original design parameters are almost immune to catastrophic failure. A Wankel engine that loses compression, cooling or oil pressure will lose a large amount of power and fail over a short period of time. It will, however, usually continue to produce some power during that time, allowing for a safer landing. Piston engines under the same circumstances are prone to seizing or breaking parts that almost certainly results in major internal damage of the engine and an instant total full loss of power. For this reason, Wankel engines are very well suited to snowmobiles, which often take users into remote places where a failure could result in frostbite or death, and aircraft, where abrupt failure is likely to lead to a crash or forced landing.

Due to a 50% longer stroke duration than a four-cycle engine there is more time to complete the combustion. This leads to greater suitability for direct injection. A Wankel rotary engine has stronger flows of air-fuel mixture and a longer operating cycle than a reciprocating engine, so it realizes concomitantly thorough mixing of hydrogen and air. The result is a homogeneous mixture, and no hot spots in the engine, which is crucial for hydrogen combustion.

Disadvantages

Although in two dimensions the seal system of a Wankel looks to be even simpler than that of a corresponding multi-cylinder piston engine, in three dimensions the opposite is true. As well as the rotor apex seals evident in the conceptual diagram, the rotor must also seal against the chamber ends.

Piston rings are not perfect seals: each has a gap to allow for expansion. The sealing at the Wankel apexes is less critical, as leakage is between adjacent chambers on adjacent strokes of the cycle, rather than to the crankcase. The less effective sealing of the Wankel, however, is one factor reducing its efficiency, limiting its use mainly to applications such as racing engines and sports vehicles where neither efficiency nor long engine life are important considerations. Comparison tests have shown that the Mazda rotary powered RX-8 uses more fuel than a heavier vehicle powered by larger displacement V-8 engine for similar performance results.

The time available for fuel to be port-injected into a Wankel engine is significantly shorter than that of four-stroke piston engines due to the way the three chambers rotate. The fuel-air mixture cannot be pre-stored as there is no intake valve. Also, the Wankel engine has 50% longer stroke duration than a piston engine. The four Otto cycles last 1080° for a Wankel engine (three revolutions of the output shaft.) versus 720° for a four-stroke reciprocating piston engine.

There are various methods of calculating the engine displacement of a Wankel. The Japanese regulations for calculating displacements for engine ratings use the volume displacement of one rotor face only, and the auto industry commonly accepts this method as the standard for calculating the displacement of a rotary. When compared by specific output, however, the convention results in large imbalances in favor of the Wankel motor.

Wankel Rotary engine and piston engine displacement and corresponding power output can more accurately be compared by displacement per revolution of the eccentric shaft. A calculation of this form dictates that a two rotor Wankel displacing 654 cc per face will have a displacement of 1.3 liters per every rotation of the eccentric shaft (only two total faces, one face per rotor going through a full power stroke) and 2.6 liters after two revolutions (four total faces, two faces per rotor going through a full power stroke). The results are directly comparable to a 2.6-liter piston engine with an even number of cylinders in a conventional firing order, which will likewise displace 1.3 liters through its power stroke after one revolution of the crankshaft, and 2.6 liters through its power strokes after two revolutions of the crankshaft. A Wankel Rotary engine is still a 4-stroke engine and pumping losses from non-power strokes still apply, but the absence of throttling valves and a 50% longer stroke duration result in a significantly lower pumping loss compared to a four-stroke reciprocating piston engine. Measuring a Wankel rotary engine in this way more accurately explains its specific output, as the volume of its air fuel mixture put through a complete power stroke per revolution is directly responsible for torque and thus power produced.

The trailing side of the rotary engine's combustion chamber develops a squeeze stream which pushes back the flamefront. With the conventional two-spark-plug or one-spark-plug system and homogenous mixture, this squeeze stream prevents the flame from propagating to the combustion chamber's trailing side in the mid and high engine speed ranges. This is why there can be more carbon monoxide and unburnt hydrocarbons in a Wankel's exhaust stream. A side-port exhaust, as is used in the Renesis, avoids this because the unburned mixture cannot escape. The Mazda 26B avoided this issue through a 3-spark plug ignition system. (At the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race in 1991 the 26B had significantly lower fuel consumption than the competing reciprocating piston engines. All competitors had the same amount of fuel available due to the Le Mans 24 hour limited fuel quantity rule.)

A peripheral intake port gives the highest MEP, however, side intake porting produces a more steady idle., as it helps preventing blow-back of burned gases into the intake ducts, that caused "misfirings", alternating cycles where mixture ignited and failed to ignite; Peripheral Porting (PP) gives the best Mean Effective Pressure (MEP) throughout all the rpm range, but PP was linked also to worse idle stability and part-load performance. Early work form Yanmar Diesel and Toyota, Toyota invented the fresh air supply to the exhaust ports and ducts, suggested that a Reed-Valve in the intake port or ducts improved the low rpm and partial load performance of Wankel RCEs, by preventing blow-back of exhaust gas into the intake port and ducts, at the cost of a little loss of power at top rpm according to David W. Garside, who proposed that an earlier opening of intake port before top dead center (TDC), and longer intake ducts improved low rpm torque and elasticity of RCEs, as it improves elasticity a greater Rotor eccentricity, that is analog to a longer stroke in a reciprocating engine. Wankel engines work better with a low pressure exhaust system, one of the reasons of the improved performance of RX-8 Renesis engine is that it doubled the exhaust port area respect to earlier designs, and there is specific work about the effect of intake and exhaust piping configuration on RCEs' performance. (SAE Paper by Ming-June Hsieh et al.)

All Mazda-made Wankel rotaries, including the new Renesis found in the RX-8, burn a small quantity of oil by design; it is metered into the combustion chamber to preserve the apex seals. Owners must periodically add small amounts of oil, thereby increasing running costs. All engines exhibit oil loss but, the rotary is engineered to as the motor is sealed, unlike a piston engine that has a film of oil that splashes on the walls of the cylinder to lubricate the cylinder walls, hence an oil "control" ring.