Could this hybrid-electric aircraft be the future of aviation?

9 Oct 2017 by Craig Bright
Zunum 2022 aircraft in clouds

Seattle-based aviation company, Zunum Aero, has unveiled details of its upcoming hybrid-to-electric aircraft, the first in a series of planes designed to offer “affordable regional travel”.

Configured to carry up to 12 passengers and due to launch in 2022, the aircraft will be able to fly about 700 miles (1,100 kilometres) using a combination of hybrid and electric power. According to the manufacturer, the aircraft reduces noise and emissions by some 80 per cent compared to conventional aircraft.

“Zunum is reinvigorating the regional market with a solution that’s both innovative and realistic,” said Logan Jones, managing director at Boeing HorizonX, an investor in Zunum. “We see them as a leader in electric aviation, building on proven technologies, with a mature technical and commercial team.”

Batteries are integrated into the wings of the aircraft, enabling quick swaps and recharging at airports.

Zunum says it is targeting under-used airports in secondary destinations in the regional market, namely in the US. Travelling between Boston to Washington DC could be done in about two and a half hours, as opposed to the current four hours and 50 minutes. Average fares on such a route would be around the US$140 mark.

Test flights for the new aircraft, which is currently unnamed, are set to begin in 2019. A video simulation of the aircraft in flight has already been released.

“This aircraft is going to transform how we live and work,” said founder and Aero chief engineer, Matt Knapp. “We’ve pushed ourselves to challenge conventional wisdom and the limits of engineering to deliver an aircraft of which we are extremely proud – one that offers efficiency and performance without compromise.”

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