Zunum Aero’s Electronic Planes Could Cut Flight Times and Costs in Half

Apr 15, 2017

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Two of the aviation industry’s biggest names — Boeing and JetBlue — are teaming up for one very exciting adventure. The two companies have partnered up to back Zunum Aero, a start-up developing a fleet of hybrid planes that could be ready to take off by the early 2020s.

Zunum Aero’s commitment to sustainable energy couldn’t come at a better time. Last week, the Kirkland, Washington-based company unveiled its plans for a fleet of hybrid and electric planes that’ll seat anywhere from 10 to 50 passengers apiece, and could cut costs and flight times in half. How? Partly by focusing on short-haul flights; Fast Company reports that Zunum Aero expects its planes to be flying up to 700 miles by the 2020s by using a hybrid gas-electric system, and that distance could even increase to 1,000 miles by 2030. The planes will operate via an electric thrust system, with a fuel-powered generator being used as a back-up. The other key part of Zunum Aero’s plan is to fly out of smaller, regional airports, which will allow for less congestion when you’re getting to and from the airport, plus a more efficient security process once a traveler has arrived. Put these components together, and the company predicts passengers will spend 40% less time getting from their front door to their final destination on busier routes — and as much as 80% less time on less-traveled routes.

“The shift of the industry to large aircraft and long ranges driven by gas turbines has concentrated almost all air traffic to just 2% of our airports, creating a massive transport gap over regional distances where there is no high-speed alternative,” Ashish Kumar, Zunum Aero’s CEO and founder, said in a press release. “As a result, door-to-door times for most journeys are no better than they were 50 years ago. Hybrid propulsion is an industry-changing solution, enabling mid-sized aircraft on regional routes to have better cost efficiencies than airliners.”

Because of the lower overhead, the company anticipates airfares will come in at around 40-80% below current prices. From an environmental standpoint, it anticipates 80% lower emissions to begin with — which may end up dropping to zero as battery density improves — and 75% less noise, allowing for departures to take place at all hours.

You had us at “flight times and costs could be cut in half.”

H/T: Fast Company

Featured image courtesy of Zunum Aero.

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