Felix Wankel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Felix Wankel
Personal information
Nationality German
Birth date August 13, 1902(1902-08-13)
Birth place Lahr, Germany
Date of death October 9, 1988 (aged 86)
Place of death Heidelberg, Germany
Education German
Spouse Emma “Mi” Kim
Parents Gerty Wankel and Rudolf Wankel
Children none
Engineering Discipline Mechanical engineering
Institution memberships Paki, Reich Air Ministry, Goetze AG, NSU, Wankel GmbH
Significant projects Wankel engine

Felix Heinrich Wankel (August 13, 1902 – October 9, 1988) was a German mechanical engineer and inventor after whom the Wankel engine was named.


[edit] Early life

Wankel was born in Lahr, Germany, in the upper Rhine Valley. He was the only child of Gerty Wankel (née Heidlauff) and Rudolf Wankel, a forest assessor. His father fell in World War I. Thereafter, the family moved to Heidelberg. He went to high schools in Donaueschingen, Heidelberg, and Weinheim, but dropped out in 1921. Then he learned to be a purchaser for the Carl Winter Press in Heidelberg. He lost his job because of economic problems in 1926.

He was gifted since childhood with an ingenous spatial imagination, and became interested in the world of machines, especially for combustion engines. Since his mother was widowed, Wankel received no university education or even an apprenticeship. However, he was able to teach himself technical subjects and conceived the idea of the Wankel engine in 1924.

[edit] Wankel and the NSDAP

Felix Wankel joined the German Nazi Party in 1921. At this point of time, he was convinced of the ideals of the Party. Beginning in 1930s, he was the Gauleiter of the Hitler Youth in Baden. Wankel had sympathy for the left wing of the NSDAP centered around Gregor Strasser. The high point of his Party membership was a meeting with Adolf Hitler in 1928. In 1932, Felix Wankel left the Party in particular because of disagreements with the Gauleiter of Baden, Robert Wagner. He had raised severe charges of corruption against another Party member. In 1933, he was arrested because of Gauleiter Wagner, who was embroiled in the corruption and cover-up scandal, and held for six months. He was freed after the financier Wilhelm Keppler intervened.

[edit] Career



Wankel engine, type DKM54 (1957)

During World War II, Wankel developed seals and rotary valves for German air force aircraft and navy torpedoes. After the war, he was imprisoned by the Allies for some months, his laboratory was closed by French occupation troops, his work was confiscated, and he was prohibited from doing more work. However, by 1951, he got funding from the Goetze AG company to furnish the new Technical Development Center in his private house in Lindau on Lake Constance. He began development of the engine at NSU (NSU Motorenwerke AG), leading to the first running prototype on February 1, 1957. [1] His engine design was first licensed by Curtiss-Wright in New Jersey, US.

On January 19, 1960, the rotary engine was presented for the first time to specialists and the press in a meeting of the German Engineers’ Union at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. In the same year, with the KKM 250, the first practical rotary engine was presented in a converted NSU Prinz. At this time, the “Wankel engine” became synonymous with the rotary piston engine, whereas previously it was called the “Motor nach System NSU/Wankel”. At the 1963 IAA, the NSU company presented the NSU Wankel-Spider, the first consumer vehicle, which went into production in 1964. Great attention was received by the NSU in August 1967 for the very modern NSU Ro80, which had a 115 horsepower engine with two rotary pistons. It was the first German car selected as “Car of the Year” in 1968.

In Japan, the manufacturer Mazda solved the engine’s chatter marks problem. The engine has been successfully used by Mazda in several generations of their RX-series of coupés and sedans, including the R100, the RX-7 and more recently the RX-8.

Wankel became a success in business by securing license agreements around the world. By 1958, Wankel and partners had founded the “Wankel GmbH” company, providing Wankel with a share of the profits for marketing the engine. Among the licensees were Daimler-Benz since 1961, General Motors since 1970, and Toyota since 1971. Royalties for the Wankel GmbH for licensure were 40%, later 36%. In 1971, Wankel sold his share of the license royalties for 50 million Marks to the English conglomerate Lonrho. The following year, he got his Technical Development Center back from the Fraunhof Society.

From 1986, the Felix Wankel Institute cooperated with Daimler Benz AG. Daimler Benz provided the operating costs in return for the research rights. He sold the Institute to Daimer Benz for 100 million Marks.

[edit] Personal Information

Since 1936, Wankel was married for life to Emma “Mi” Kim. They had no children. His grave may be found in the Bergfriedhof of Heidelberg.

He never had a driver’s license, because he was extremely near-sighted. He was, however, the owner of an NSU Ro 80 with a Wankel engine, which was chauffeured for him.

In later years, Wankel was granted an honorary Doctorate of Engineering. He was known for his championing of animal rights and opposition to the use of animals in testing.

Wankel died in Heidelberg, aged 86.

After his death, the Felix Wankel Foundation sold its real estate property to Volkswagen AG. The Heidelberg Fire Department showcases his last workshop. Wankel’s papers are archived in the Technomuseum in Mannheim. Furthermore, there is an exhibition “AUTOVISION · Tradition & Forum” in Altlußheim, a permanent showing of over 80 rotary engines and many cars equipped with Wankel motors.

[edit] Licensees

21.10.1958 Curtiss-Wright Corp. USA without restriction, no series
29.12.1960 Fichtel & Sachs AG BRD industrial engine and boat, 0.5-30 PS
25.02.1961 Yanmar Diesel Co. Ltd JP gasoline and diesel engine, 1-100 PS, 1-300 PS
27.02.1961 Toyo Kogyo, Co. Ltd. JP gasoline 1-200 PS land vehicles
04.10.1961 Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz AG BRD diesel engine without restriction
26.10.1961 Daimler-Benz AG BRD gasoline 50 PS upwards
30.10.1961 MAN AG BRD diesel engine without restriction
02.11.1961 Friedrich Krupp AG BRD diesel engine without restriction
12.03.1964 Daimler-Benz AG BRD diesel engine without restriction
15.04.1964 S.p.A Alfa Romeo IT gasoline engine 50-300 PS or Passenger car
17.02.1965 Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd. GB diesel and hybrid engines 100-850 Ps
18.02.1965 IFA VEB DDR gasoline engine 0.5-25 PS and 50-150 PS
02.03.1965 Dr.Ing. h.c. Porsche KG BRD gasoline engine 50-1000 Ps
01.03.1966 Outboard Marine Corp. USA gasoline engine 50-400 Ps
11.05.1967 Comotor S.A. L gasoline and diesel engine 40-200 PS
12.09.1967 Graupner BRD 0,1-3 PS model engines
28.08.1969 Savkel Ltd. IS gasoline 0.5-30 PS industrial engines
01.10.1970 Nissan JP gasoline engines 80-120 Ps
10.11.1970 General Motors USA everything, except aircraft engines
24.11.1970 Suzuki JP gasoline engines 20-60 PS for motorcycle
25.05.1971 Toyota JP gasoline engines 75-150 PS
29.11.1971 Ford-Werke AG, Köln BRD gasoline engines 80-200 PS (1974 quit)
25.07.1972 BSA Ltd. GB gasoline engines 35-60 PS for motorcycle
29.09.1972 Yamaha JP gasoline engines 20-80 PS for motorcycle
04.10.1971 Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. JP gasoline engines 20-80 PS for motorcycle
03.02.1973 American Motors (AMC) [1] USA gasoline engines 20-200 PS

[edit] Honors and awards

  • Honorary doctorate degree from Technische Universität München, December 5, 1969.
  • The Federation of German Engineers (VDI) Gold Medal, 1969.
  • The Grand Federal Service Cross, Germany’s highest civilian honor, 1970
  • John Price Wetherill Medal, Philadelphia, 1971.
  • The Bavarian Service Medal, 1973.
  • The “Honour Citizen” of Lahr,1981, and the title of Professor in 1987.
  • The Soichiro Honda Medal, 1987.
  • Honorary citizenship of Lindau (declined)

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Wankel-Jubiläum: Warten aufs Wunder, Der Spiegel, 21 January 2007.

[edit] External links


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