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Round and Round We Go: Rotary Engines for Automotive Applications

Given that internal combustion (IC) engines used to power automobiles are intended to drive wheels, it might seem obvious that engines which produces rotary rather than reciprocating motion in the first place would be preferable. But the reality is that piston engines have long established an overwhelming predominance in the worldwide automotive industry.

According to Phil Gott, analyst with IHS Automotive, sound reasons for this exist in the U.S. He points out that though rotary engines are capable of high power densities and smooth operation, they have also generally proved much less fuel efficient and also more prone to generate high levels of hydrocarbon emissions than reciprocating counterparts.

But the rotary engine concept has never gone away. Moreover, and perhaps ironically, at a time when fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness are regarded as priorities there is renewed interest in rotary technology as a means of achieving those goals.

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