Boeing backed startup ,Zunum to build hybrid-powered aeroplane by 2022
London,Oct05:A start-up backed by Boeing on Thursday unveiled details of a hybrid-powered aeroplane it hopes will cut flying costs and regional fares. Zunum, which counts the US aerospace group and low-cost airline JetBlue among its investors, hopes to have the 10-12 seater regional aircraft it has under development in the air by 2022.
It will have direct operating costs that are competitive with existing gas turbine powered aircraft at eight cents per available seat mile — a measure of efficiency used by global airlines.
According to a 2015 report by consultants Oliver Wyman, this would represent a cost reduction of roughly 10-30 per cent on a range of bigger aircraft operated by legacy and low-cost airlines.
Ashish Kumar, co-founder and chief executive of Zunum, said the company’s engineers had taken a lesson from the car industry by combining electric propulsion with range-extending generators that would allow the aircraft to fly up to 700 miles.
However, some experts are sceptical about claims that hybrid aircraft will be cheaper to operate initially at least. “I can’t see that it will initially bring costs down because they will still have gas turbines burning fuel,” said Nikhil Sachdeva of consultants Roland Berger, which on Thursday published a report on electric propulsion.
Meanwhile, the weight and duration of batteries will severely limit the range of possible air journeys in electrically powered aircraft. But Mr Kumar said battery life was advancing so rapidly that Zunum, founded in 2013, was hoping to deliver the world’s first 50-100 seater commercial electric aircraft with a range of 1,000 miles or more to the market by 2030.
The company wants to convert drivers and rail passengers into air travellers by using lower security local air fields to cut the time it takes to travel short to medium distances. It estimates that the total market potential for replacement aircraft and conversion of ground travellers to air could total as much as $3tn
It estimates that its aircraft, which is yet to be built, could cut total travel time from London to Paris and from Boston to Washington DC by almost half as it is designed to cruise at up to 340 miles an hour, In April it launched plans for a small, scaleable aircraft of 10-12 seats, initially hybrid but convertible into a fully electric jet when battery technology allows.
It plans to fly a demonstrator aircraft by 2019, with at least three further iterations before the aircraft is expected to enter service in 2022.