Mazda continues to tease us with a rotary engine, which last found a home in a production vehicle in the 2012 RX-8 sports car. At the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, neither of the brand's gorgeous concepts housed a rotary engine, but managing executive officer Mitsuo Hitomi, who oversees engine development, dropped more clues to Autocar about how the company will include its famed rotary engine in future electrified cars.

Although the automaker has flip-flopped on whether rotary engine development proceeds as a stand-alone engine or as a range-extender for electric cars, Hitomi said both are possible. However, he confirmed the rotary engine will serve as a range-extender first when the company debuts its first electrified car in 2019, Autocar reported. The company partnered this year with Toyota to co-develop future electric cars together and build production facilities.

"It is much, much quieter compared to other manufacturers’ range-extenders," he said of the rotary range-extender. 

Mazda's most recent engine development is Skyactiv-X, a Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition engine that still uses spark plugs at times. The company is reportedly working on electrified versions slated for a 2019 introduction, possibly in the next-generation Mazda 3.

Mazda Kai concept, 2017 Tokyo Motor Show

Mazda Kai concept, 2017 Tokyo Motor Show

Like past reports, Hitomi didn't pour cold water on a rotary-powered sports car in the future. He admitted there may not be a plan for a stand-alone sports car now, but said, "of course we are developing a rotary engine alone."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Mazda's first rotary-powered production car, the Cosmo 110S. If there's a chance for a new rotary sports car—and we hope there is—Mazda likely will debut it in time for the company's 100th birthday in 2020.