From the “ultimate range anxiety” department.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Seattle-area startup, backed by the venture capital arms of Boeing Co (BA.N) and JetBlue Airways Corp (JBLU.O) announced plans on Thursday to bring a small hybrid-electric commuter aircraft to market by 2022.
The small airliner is the first of several planes planned by Zunum Aero, which said it would seat up to 12 passengers and be powered by two electric motors, dramatically reducing the travel time and cost of trips under 1,000 miles (1,600 km).
Zunum’s plans and timetable underscore a rush to develop small electric aircraft based on rapidly evolving battery technology and artificial intelligence systems that avoid obstacles on a road or in the sky.
In a separate but related development, Boeing said on Thursday it plans to acquire a company that specializes in electric and autonomous flight to help its own efforts to develop such aircraft.
Several companies, including Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and European planemaker Airbus (AIR.PA), are working on electric-powered self-flying cars.
Zunum does not expect to be the first to certify an electric-powered aircraft with regulators. Rather, it is aiming to fill a market gap for regional travel by airlines, where private jets and commercial jetliners are too costly for many to use.
Electric-vehicle batteries, such as those made by Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and Panasonic Corp (6752.T), would power Zunum’s motors, although Zunum has no commitment with either company. A supplemental jet-fuel engine and electrical generator would be used to give the plane a range of 700 miles and ensure it stays aloft after the batteries are exhausted, Knapp said
Current battery technology can only power the plane for about 100 miles so a gas-powered engine would be used to generate electricity to power the motors for additional range.
Full story here.
Once again, fossil fuel power is used for reliable power. Dr. Roy Spencer quipped on his Facebook page:
I’ll bet they won’t even be able take off on battery power alone… and why would you use a gas powered engine to charge the batteries in-flight? I’ll bet the efficiency of that is way below a jet engine burning the fuel directly.
Looks like this is more for publicity show than anything else, we’ll see if it actually works or if the fleet will end up in the hangar most of the time like the much ballyhooed LAPD electric police cars that sit mostly idle.