Zunum Aero has received backing from Boeing and JetBlue for plans that would have a hybrid electric commuter plane in the air by the year 2022. With climbing fuel costs and endless delays at check-in, these new hybrids are expected to operate at a fraction of the cost due to lower fuel consumption and be extremely agile, getting passengers to their destinations faster than ever before.
The initial designs show a plane that is small in stature, seating only a dozen or passengers, and suited for trips that are less than 1,000 miles in distance. Zunum Aero execs say they identified a hole in the aviation market that opened up an opportunity to launch the electric commuter plane program. Connections from smaller airports to large hubs have always been cumbersome. Passengers often complain about inefficiencies and the cost of short trips. The electric commuter aircraft are expected to radically cut travel time from small airports with connections to major hubs and provide airline customers with a seamless solution compared to traditional options.
The initial flight tests are scheduled to begin in 2019. This is a very ambitious goal for Zunam Aero, considering current battery technology is not powerful enough to generate enough energy for liftoff. That is the main reason that there are no electrically powered aircraft today, and most experts estimate that it will take many years for technological advances to make it possible. But according to Zunum Aero executives, their proprietary propulsion and powertrain technology will enable them to build a hybrid with a range of 700 miles by the year 2022 and by 2030, an electric plane with a 1,000-mile range.
This is great news for consumers because the cost of connections will be lower and even the noise and pollution emitted from the hybrids gets a check in the positive column: the hyrid electric jets boast an 80% reduction in both noise and noxious air emissions.
While the new alliance between Zunum, Boeing and JetBlue is set to conquer short duration flights with the new technology, Boeing said in a comment this week that they plan to further extend the program to long distance flights. Boeing announced its acquisition of Aurora Flight Services October 5 with an eye toward developing electric jets for long duration flights, for both commercial customers and the military.