A new startup called Zunum Aero is aiming to reinvent how users travel short distances, such as from San Francisco to Los Angeles. “The Kirkland, Washington-based company […] plans to build a fleet of hybrid electric jets to sell to major carriers for service on densely traveled regional routes like San Francisco to Los Angeles or Boston to Washington, DC, “reports The Verge. Two aviation giants, Boeing and JetBlue, are reportedly backing the startup. From the report: Lower operating costs (i.e., no fueling) will allow carriers to reduce fares by 40 to 80 percent, they predict. And by flying a smaller aircraft that would be subject to fewer TSA regulations, Zunum claims it will take less time to go through security before boarding one of its planes. Zunum aims to build several models of hybrid-electric propulsion jets. At launch, its first class of aircraft will be tiny, in the 10-15 foot range, with a 10-passenger capacity and a range of up to 700 miles on a single charge. (Think San Francisco to Portland or Atlanta to DC.) Those planes can be expected to roll off the assembly line by the early 2020s, the company’s CEO Ashish Kumar told The Verge. By the 2030s, as electric battery technology improves, Zunum hopes to build larger aircraft that can carry up to 50 passengers and travel up to 1,000 miles on a single charge. (Think Seattle to LA or Boston to Jacksonville, Florida.) Zunum’s aircraft will feature hybrid electric motors with the capacity to accept recharging power from a variety of sources. Because airplanes are typically kept in service for up to 30 years, Kumar says its important for Zunum’s aircraft to be future proof. That means designing them to be compatible with future battery designs and range-extending generators, with an eye toward ultimately switching from hybrid propulsion to fully electric motors once the technology catches up.
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