Breaking News – Boeing-backed, hybrid-electric plane to hit market in 2022

A Seattle-area startup, backed by the venture capital arms of Boeing Co and JetBlue Airways Corp 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.Zunum Aero is working to develop 'hybrid to electric;' craft that 'sip fuel only when they have to.' It’s hoped that this will make electric air travel more affordable, with frequent service across more than 5,000 regional and general aviation airports in the US. The firm claims these resources are currently underutilized. According to Zunum Aero, this means passengers traveling from regional airports in the Boston area to Washington DC, for example, would reach their destination in half the time, and at half the fare. In heavily-trafficked routes, this could decrease travel time by 40 percent. And, in areas with less congestion, it could even drop door-to-door times 80 percent. The firm says hybrid-electric propulsion will also allow for an 80 percent drop in emissions – and eventually, as battery densities improve, emissions could drop to zero.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 and European planemaker Airbus, 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.Zunum's planes would fly from thousands of small airports around big cities to cut regional travel times and costs."Airlines are very keen to know how to fly a shorter distance and make money on it," Matt Knapp, co-founder and chief aeronautic engineer of the Kirkland, Washington-based company, said in an interview.A flight from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles, for instance, would leave from Palo Alto, San Carlos, Hayward or Reid Hillview airports and arrive in Santa Monica, Burbank, Hawthorne or San Gabriel Valley airports.The cost would be about $120 one way, the company said.The travel time of over four hours would be cut in half by avoiding the crowds and security lines at big hubs that are required for larger planes.About 96 percent of U.S. air traffic travels through 1 percent of its airports, leaving thousands of small airports virtually untapped, Knapp said.Electric-vehicle batteries, such as those made by Tesla Inc and Panasonic Corp, 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 saidZunum plans to make a larger plane seating up to 50 passengers at the end of the next decade, and the range of both would increase to about 1,000 miles as battery technology improves, Knapp said.The planes eventua1

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