The age of hybrid-electric commercial aircraft is right around the corner. A start-up backed by Boeing just hit an important milestone in its quest to be among the first to cash in on the technology.
On May 21, Zunum Aero signed a deal to sell up to 100 of its electric-powered planes to JetSuite, a charter and scheduled service company. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but deliveries are set to begin in 2022.
Zunum, based in Kirkland, Washington, in the shadow of Boeing's commercial operation, is developing a 12-passenger aircraft powered by twin electric-motor-driven fan blades, with a conventional fuel-powered engine as a backup at least initially. The battery packs will be in the aircraft's wings. The plane, which due to U.S. government regulations would likely only seat nine on commercial flights, is designed for trips of 700 miles at a maximum cruise speed of 340 miles per hour, competitive with current small regional aircraft offerings.
The company expects to do flight testing in 2019 and begin deliveries to JetSuite three years later. Boeing owns an undisclosed stake in Zunum through its HorizonX venture arm, which also earlier this year invested in battery development start-up Cuberg.
As battery technology continues to improve, larger airplanes are planned.