Wankel powered go-kart

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My obsession with video from min-cameras continues. Last time we were aboard a dragster, this video is a test drive of a go-kart powered by a Wankel engine. The driver starts by running the course cautiously and then, a few minutes in, he slows down as he fiddles with the kart's settings. When he's done with his adjustments he kicks it up a notch and starts running the laps very fast. I would be nervous going that fast in such a tiny vehicle.

While watching the video, I got curious as to how a Wankel engine works. I swiped the animation to the right from the Wikipedia article on Wankel engines.

A Wankel engine is an internal combustion engine, but rather than having pistons, it has a triangular shaped rotor. The shape of the cylinder compresses the fuel mixture after intake and the motion of the rotor exhausts the gas.

Wankel engines have only been sporadically used. They're perhaps best known as powering the Mazda  RX series of sports cars (coincidentally, the same forward-looking car company that built the Flares Eco-Mobile). 

However, this year Mazda halted the production of their rotary engine sports cars. As a result, Wankel engines are now mainly being produced in the mini, micro, and micro-mini engine sizes. So, although not powering passenger vehicles, the Wankel engines are increasingly being used where very small and efficient motors are needed.