With our natural gravitation towards the cost-efficient and eco-friendly, it seems the inevitable is finally on the horizon. Zunum Aero, the aviation coalition between Boeing and JetBlue, has announced plans to get the first generation of hybrid-electric planes in the air by 2022.
The initial round of aircrafts is designed as 12 passenger, short distance planes, with the expectation to cut down on flight times and ticket costs. Today, large jumbo aircrafts running on ethanol-based fuel are still being used for regional flights, operating out of major airports and thus hiking up the ticket price.
By using smaller vehicles and smaller regional airports, Zunum believes it can make national travel much more convenient in the air.
While its specifications are still being unveiled, its current range sits at around 700 miles or a little over 1,100 kilometers. Getting up to top cruising speeds of 340 miles per hour (about 550 km/h), these light aircrafts should save passengers both time and money, producing only a fifth of the emissions a normal plane would emit.
That would cut a normal flight of around five hours in half, for less money on top of that. Combined with the fact that these planes should also dramatically lower their noise output, they will seemingly be perfect for the regional airports.
Zunum is also hoping that the battery world will catch up to its designs sooner than later. At the moment, the aircraft’s batteries are stored within the wings, supplying a large amount but not all of the plane’s power.
However, it’s been engineered so that when battery technology can reach a sustainable output, the hybrid-electric plane will be able to function on battery alone.
There’s no shortage of healthy competition, however, as Airbus, Wright Electric and EasyJet have all announced plans to launch electric or hybrid-electric planes into the air within the next decade.
Zunum expects to start testing in 2019, expanding operations from Kirkland, Washington to Chicago and around the United States to further develop prototypes. With these unveilings, it’s not a stretch to think future generations will look back at our giant, gas-guzzling jumbo jets and gaze in awe as if looking at a prehistoric monster.