Mazda is committed to the rotary, though whether the unique engine design is used to directly power a sports car or serve as a range-extender for an electric car remains to be seen.

Mazda has hinted at both options in recent years but so far has tended to flip-flop between the two.

Now, though, a senior Mazda executive has hinted that both options could be on the table.

Speaking with Automotive News (subscription required), Mitsuo Hitomi, head of powertrains at Mazda, said a rotary will “probably” do duty as a range-extender in an electric car. However, he also said a rotary to power a sports car is also being developed.

Mazda 2 RE Range Extender concept

Mazda 2 RE Range Extender concept

Mazda will introduce an electric car in 2019. Akira Kyomen, who is heading development of the vehicle, told Automotive News that the electric car will come with a range-extender option. Based on Hitomi's comments, it’s possible the range-extender Mazda uses will be a rotary.

Mazda has already shown an electric car with a rotary range-extender, the Mazda2 RE Range Extender concept unveiled in 2013. Its rotary was a single-rotor 0.33-liter unit that with a full tank of gasoline could provide 111 miles of range. On batteries alone the concept could travel 124 miles.

As for a rotary-powered sports car, Hitomi said it wasn’t the technology holding back the car but the business case. Interestingly, this is in contrast to his comments made just a month ago that Mazda couldn’t get its latest rotary engine, referred to as SkyActiv-R, to meet emission regulations.

This month’s 2017 Tokyo Motor Show will mark the 50th anniversary of the unveiling of the Cosmo 110S sports car, Mazda's first rotary-powered car. It’s expected that Mazda will preview a rotary-powered car of some sort at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show to mark the anniversary and then introduce the production version in 2020 to mark the company’s 100th anniversary. The Tokyo Motor Show starts October 25, so stay tuned.