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Who Was Mr Felix Wankel?

Felix Wankel was a German engineer and inventor who is best known for his work on the rotary engine, a type of internal combustion engine that uses a rotating rotor instead of reciprocating pistons to generate power. Wankel's design, known as the Wankel engine, was a significant departure from traditional engine designs and promised to be more efficient, lightweight, and powerful.


Felix Heinrich Wankel Inventor of the rotary engine.


Wankel was born in 1902 in Lahr, Germany, and grew up in a family of engineers. He developed an early interest in mechanics and spent much of his youth tinkering with engines and other mechanical devices. After completing his education, Wankel worked as a design engineer for several companies, and he eventually became interested in the idea of creating a new type of engine.



In the 1950s, Wankel began working on his rotary engine design in earnest, and he eventually developed a working prototype. His design used a triangular-shaped rotor that rotated inside a housing to generate power, and it was able to run on a variety of fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and natural gas.


Engine type DKM54 (1957)



Wankel's rotary engine was initially met with great enthusiasm, and several car and motorcycle manufacturers began incorporating it into their vehicles. However, despite its initial promise, the Wankel engine faced several challenges that limited its widespread adoption. One of the major problems was its high fuel consumption and relatively low efficiency compared to traditional piston engines. Additionally, the Wankel engine was prone to wear and required frequent maintenance, which made it less reliable over the long term.


Despite these challenges, Wankel's rotary engine remains an important and influential design, and it continues to be used in a variety of applications, including cars, motorcycles, boats, and aircraft. Wankel himself received numerous awards and accolades for his work, and he is remembered as a pioneer in the field of engine design.



However, Wankel's connection to the Nazi Party has also been a source of controversy. During World War II, Wankel was a member of the Nazi Party and held several high-ranking positions within the organisation. In 1943, he was appointed as a professor at the Technical University of Berlin, a position he held until the end of the war.

After the war, Wankel was arrested and detained by the Allied forces for his involvement with the Nazi Party. He was eventually released and allowed to continue his work as an engineer, but his association with the Nazis has continued to be a source of criticism and controversy.


Despite his controversial connection to the Nazi Party, Wankel's contributions to engineering and technology have been widely recognised. He received numerous awards and honours throughout his career, and his rotary engine has had a significant impact on the automotive industry.



Wankel's grave in Heidelberg


Felix Wankel died on October 9, 1988 at the age of 86. Despite the limited success of his rotary engine, he is remembered as a pioneer in the field of engine design and a visionary inventor.

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