Boeing and JetBlue Airways have announced plans to invest in a startup that specializes in electric airplanes. The startup, Zunum Aero, is looking to build small-to-mid-sized jets with an estimated range of 700 to 1,000 miles by 2030. Rather than being powered strictly by traditional jet fuel (unleaded kerosene or naphtha kerosene blends), however, Zunum Aero’s new jets will feature a hybrid design that uses fuel as well as rechargeable batteries.
Zunum Aero’s bold new concept seeks to revolutionize the aerospace industry. Thanks to its battery bank, the electric airplane is expected to have an operating cost of just $250 per hour, making it 300% to 500% cheaper than the Beechcraft King Air. Furthermore, Zunum Aero’s airplane would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is another notable benefit of its project.
Based in Kirkland, Washington, Zunum Aero is a startup company that’s been working on an electric airplane since 2013. The company received an $800,000 grant from Washington’s Clean Energy Fund to help develop its new airplane.
As explained by Bloomberg, Boeing and JetBlue have been actively scouting aerospace startups. While Zunum Aero is a relatively small and new aerospace company, it holds high hopes for the future of air travel. Perhaps in a few years we’ll see the company’s electric airplanes available for commercial use.
When speaking about his company’s recent investment in Zunum Aero, Boeing’s Steve Nordlurd explained that Boeing is looking at both traditional and non-traditional partnerships to drive aerospace innovation.
“Our charter is looking beyond the horizon,’” said Steve Nordlund of Boeing HorizonX. “We’re looking at traditional, non-traditional partnerships that help us accelerate innovation and market opportunities.”
So, when can you expect to see Zunum Aero’s new electric airplane in the skies? The startup has a projected date of completion of early 2020s. Of course, Zunum Aero features a myriad of challenges in getting its electric airplanes into the skies. While electric cars and trucks have been on the roads for many years now, there are no electric airplanes in operation to date. One of the reasons for this is the high power demand by airplanes. Running a car or truck requires substantially less power than running an airplane; thus, batteries are no problem. But flying an airplane requires significantly more power. Furthermore, there’s tighter regulations regarding the development of new airplanes.
Zunum Aero isn’t the only company looking to develop an electric airplane. Tesla Motors has revealed similar plans to build its own electric airplane.