A Boeing-backed electric commuter plane by startup Zunum Aero is planning for take off in 2022

Rebecca Smith
How its 2022 hybrid-electric planes will look
How its 2022 hybrid-electric planes will look (Source: Zunum Aero)

A US startup which has been backed by the venture capital arms of Boeing and JetBlue Airways has plans for a hybrid-electric commuter aircraft to take off by 2022.

Zunum Aero said the plane will be the first of a few, and will seat up to 12 passengers. It will be powered by two electric motors, with the aim of seriously slashing the travel time, as well as cost, of journeys under 1,000 miles.

The first aircraft by the firm is designed specifically for regional service, eyeing a gap that will result in it flying from thousands of small airports around big cities to cut down on travel time. It is aiming for flight tests starting in 2019.

Read more: Startup sets its sights on electric short-haul flights from London to Paris

Zunum Aero notes: "We are a land of towns and communities, many with airports, but few with regular air service. Our stock of 13,500 airports is the largest in the world, yet just 140 of the largest hubs carry over 97 per cent of air traffic."

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The firm thinks electric aircraft can fill the gap - they don't require much in the way of support aside from a GPS flightpath and a quick recharge or swap facility on the tarmac.

Among the credentials the startup is boasting are 80 per cent lower noise and emissions, and "fares below commercial [levels]".

It marks the latest development amid a flurry of activity to progress electric aircraft.

In a separate announcement yesterday, Boeing said it was acquiring Aurora Flight Sciences to boost its ability to develop autonomous, electric-powered and long-flight duration aircraft for its commercial and military businesses.

And last month EasyJet announced details of a tie-up with US startup Wright Electric as it seeks to develop passenger aircraft powered by electric batteries.

The low-cost carrier wants the planes to fly passengers on its short-haul routes. After demonstrating the technology works in a two-seater plane, Wright has been working with EasyJet to scale up to commercial proportions.

Read more: EasyJet's planning an electric plane: Here's how it will look

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