The rotary engine could be on the verge of a revolution.
California startup GoTek Energy has received a patent for a new type of motor – one that addresses some of the shortcomings of past rotaries, while promising better power and efficiency than traditional piston engines.
I say traditional, because this rotary uses something called pivot pistons.
Unlike the Wankel rotary engine made famous and famously killed by Mazda, with its pinched-oval housing and triangular rotor, GoTek’s DynaKinetic engine features a circular housing and a rotor that looks like a twisted ninja throwing star, creating four combustion chambers each fitted with a gear-driven piston resembling a flap that moves in and out to suck in and compress the fuel/air mixture as the rotor spins.
There are still no camshafts or valves, the intake and exhaust ports are simply opened and closed by the passage of the rotor. GoTek CEO Steve Herbruck tells FoxNews.com it can be optimized to run on just about any fuel, with either spark or compression ignition.
Another advantage of the circular design is that it does away with the offset rotor crank required in a Wankel, improving torque to a level that’s even better than a reciprocating piston engine. GoTek also claims to have solved the sealing issues inherent in the Wankel design that led to high oil consumption and poor emissions performance.
The prototype is equivalent to a 1.5-liter four-cylinder, but is just 6 inches wide and 12 inches in diameter. The unit can be sized up and down, and several can be stacked together to meet different power requirements.
Along with use as a vehicle’s primary motivator, the compact size and smooth operation of the DynaKinetic engine makes it appealing as an electricity generator, either on its own or as part of a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Mazda is considering resurrecting its rotary for a similar purpose.
Herbruck says GoTek has had discussions with several major manufacturers about adopting the engine, but can’t reveal which ones just yet. And while it doesn’t plan to start building them until it has a customer lined up, he says its relatively simple design -- there are just 13 moving parts -- and use of non-exotic materials in its construction means GoTek can get a production line up and running in less than a year.
The engine of the future? You might be able to take it for a spin soon.
Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.