It's starting to look more and more likely that the Wankel rotary engine could have a future as an electric vehicle range extender. Felix Wankel's original concept was once seen as having great potential because of its high power density compared to piston engines. Unfortunately, the manufacturing processes available in the 1960s and 1970s made it difficult to achieve adequate durability without high oil consumption and excessive emissions.
At last week's Vienna Motor Symposium, FEV was on hand showing off its LiiOn-drive Fiat 500 for ride and drives. We first saw this range extended electric vehicle last year at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit.
Mazda's Wankel rotary engine has always been unique in the automotive landscape as a mass-produced internal combustion engine that eschews such unsightly items as pistons, valves and camshafts. The Wankel packs lots of power into a very small package, but one thing it's never been is fuel efficient, despite its relatively meager 1.3-liters of displacement. It seems the Japanese automaker is working hard to change that reputation with the next generation of the RX series.