By on March 13, 2009

When I read in Auto, Motor und Sport about a concept car that looks great, claims 110 mpg (city) and a top speed of 210 mph, I was intrigued. But skeptical too, of course. Since the boffins at the UK’s Frazer-Nash Research (and not just some garage geniuses) are behind the “Namir” Rotary-engine hybrid dream car, I thought it would be worth a call. So, I spoke with company Director, Gordon Dickson. Why Wankel? “A rotary engine is extremely compact and is also extremely energy-efficient at its RPM sweet spot. The Namir is a serial hybrid, meaning there is no mechanical connection between the combustion engine and the four electric motors, so it’s easy to keep the 814cc Wankel engine within its sweet spot. We have already employed this technology in our Metrail system.”

Actually, I read that Fabrizio Giugiaro, the bloke you had design the Namir, is just glad it isn’t equipped with some prosaic Fiat engine. “Well, the Wankel is much more efficient, lighter and smaller than a four-stroke would be. Its compact form also enables a low center of gravity and a smooth underbody. That’s how Fabrizio was able to get 210 mph in the wind tunnel”. Are you another one of these companies that are hopping on to the hybrid wagon? “Actually, we have been working on electric propulsion for the past 20 years. And we are developers  and not just system integrators. So we do all the software etc. in-house, something that takes considerable commitment.”

Here’s some technical stuff, for the brightest of the B&B: 397 hp, 4WD, 0-60 in 3.5s, Lithium-Polymer batteries weighing 150 kg, curb weight 1500 kg. Expected date on market: never. This is a show-off piece that intends to demonstrate what can be done. I like it.

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12 Comments on “Giugiaro and Frazer-Nash Want You to Wankel...”


  • avatar
    AWD-03

    Now how much attention do they get by apeing a Lambo. Big numbers mean nothing without putting the product out there. I mean I really loved the Vector too, but I can’t seem to remember the last time I saw one on the road. Hmmmm

    My point is, enough talk about what can be. Get it on the damn road.

  • avatar
    tom

    I’m not a big expert on Wankel engines, but this sounds reasonable. I haven’t heard before that the Wankel is energy efficient at it’s RPM sweet spot. I have always thought that it’s generally less efficient because the combustion chamner cannot be as ideal as in the Otto or Diesel engine. But if this is true, then the Wankel could finally have its brake-thru in “extended range” vehicles of all sorts. It would be so much better given its compact size.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Here’s some technical stuff, for the brightest of the B&B: 397HP, 4WD, 0-60 in 3.5 sec, Lithium-Polymer batteries weighing 150KG, curb weight 1500KG. Expected date on market: never. This is a show-off piece that intends to demonstrate what can be done. I like it.

    Range? Cost? Interior packaging? Point?

    I’m all for concepts, but this isn’t Fraser-Nash’s wankel, it’s Fraser-Nash wanking.

    I’m also not entirely sure of the concept of a series hybrid because it’s not necessarily that efficient: you’ve permanently abstracted the engine from the wheels and added a layer of energy wastage. It’s one of the good points of a parallel system: you can go ICE directly when it’s most efficient to do so.

  • avatar

    But will the Wankel have the usual oil-eating, short-life issues that always hindered that beautiful engine in the first place?

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    psarhjinian (by the way, are you Armenian?), I am waiting for additional information which should answer most of your questions, which I will then post here pronto.

  • avatar
    gzuckier

    one point on the wankel’s side is it isn’t picky about octane; i’ve seen reports of them running on 60 octane. that oughta increase the supply of usable gasoline a bit, for what it’s worth.

    series hybrid does introduce inefficiencies into the power train, but on the other hand the torque curve of electric motors is beneficial enough that it adds efficiency compared to a mechanical transmission, and the aforementioned efficiencies of having the engine tuned to run at a single rpm; (seems like this would be a perfect place for turbocharging, tiny engines with big turbos are highly efficient at fixed rpms, and wankels leave a lot of energy in their exhaust, not having nasty valves and stuff.)

    seems like specific design features would be the determining factor.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    These have actually been around since the ’70s, right next to the 100 MPG carburetors.

  • avatar
    Ferrygeist

    “I mean I really loved the Vector too, but I can’t seem to remember the last time I saw one on the road.”

    For what it’s worth–and that ain’t much–I actually saw one driving here in LA three or four years ago on a New Year’s day drive.

  • avatar

    If they really think they can get fuel mileage that’s even close to a piston engine with a Wankel, I’ll sell them the Brooklyn Bridge. The exigencies of the Wankel’s simple design force the combustion chamber to be about as far from ideal as it can possibly be. That, and several other problems intrinsic to the design account for the otherwise lovely RX-8’s terrible fuel mileage.

    Anyone who wants to see the article I did on this can email me at [email protected] (If I don’t email you back, it’s because I got overwhelmed with requests, but I doubt that will happen.)

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    by the way, are you Armenian?

    Hah! Only partially, and the handle is only very tangentially related to the actual family name, but you’re the first person in something like ten years who’s asked.

    I am waiting for additional information which should answer most of your questions, which I will then post here pronto.

    You’ll have to forgive my skepticism. I really, really want EVs and hybrids to succeed, but I feel that confining the best work to concepts and suchlike unobtanium isn’t the way to do it—and in fact may hurt more than help by pushing the idea that they aren’t “real” cars.**

    They’re nice and all, but the push needs to be at the low end. I’d rather see something attractive (and this is so) that sacrifices the face-distorting acceleration, cramped cockpit and high price for something a little more reasonable.

    I’m not asking for much, just a nicer-looking Prius that’s more fun to drive and pushes the envelope a little more.

    ** The Prius made the gas-electric hybrid an everyday concept, which was important. Things like Tesla’s Roadster and Volt do the opposite, turning what would be a rational idea into the realm of never-to-see-the-light-of-day fancy (or at least the light of day outside a dot-com’ers garage)

  • avatar
    gslippy

    @psarhjinian:

    You are correct on every count.

    Both the Tesla and the Volt are unobtainable due to price. The market is exceptionally small for $100k sports cars, and $40k economy cars.

    The Volt could become the Cimarron of economy cars, if it is ever actually built.

  • avatar
    T2

    That’s how Fabrizio was able to get 210mph in the wind tunnel”.

    Sounds like it’s snake oil time. Somebody should explain to that shillmeister just how a wind tunnel works.

    Next up – So we do all the software etc. in-house, something that take considerable committment

    Excuse me but a 5k-ohm pot on the accel pedal coonected to the inverter, an ESTOP pushbutton for safety and you’re almost good to go. A signal from the inverter indicating consumed power can be sent over to the wankel engine speed controller as an rpm reference.

    I’d say the “commitment” would be were you doing this on your own dime fella, and not at govt (read taxpayers) expense.

    Finally Mr psarhjinian your statement
    ….. concept of a series hybrid because it’s not necessarily that efficient: you’ve permanently abstracted the engine from the wheels and added a layer of energy wastage.

    Pardon me, I wouldn’t be so quick to denigrate series hybrids inferring that the electrical interface involves a layer of enegy wastage. At cruise speeds the typical manual transmission handling those lower power loadings isn’t so great either.
    T2

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