Connecticut firm LiquidPiston has revived the old Wankel Engine idea and made it work, creating a better engine for the vehicle of tomorrow.
Engine technology is not a very glamorous. Or at least, it doesn’t often steal headlines, but of course, in relation to a number of technologies, engines are very important. So when you can make an engine faster, lighter, and more powerful than others, that’s a big deal.
And that’s what LiquidPiston has done. The Connecticut firm has spent 13 years and $18 million to create what is called a “Wankel Engine,” a rotary engine idea thought up by Felix Wankel in 1960.
A Wankel engine replaces pistons with one or more triangular rotors that follow an elliptical orbit within a peanut-shaped chamber. While being faster and more powerful, this version of the engine has problems in fuel economy, CO2 emissions, and reliability.
LiquidPiston, revised the idea to make it better.
Instead of a triangle in a peanut, they use a peanut-shaped rotor in a triangular chamber. A typical 30 kilowatt-hour generator weighs 1,000 pounds or more. This engine could generate that same amount in a unit that weighs less than 400.
Their engine, the X Mini, is currently being tested in go karts, but has serious applications in electric vehicles, drones, and other forms of transport.