US aircraft manufacturer agrees deal with charter operator JetSuite for up to 100 of its hybrid electric planes, for delivery in the early 2020s
As luxury travel on the ground becomes increasingly electrified, the skies are next. This week private jet charter firm JetSuite announced a major procurement deal with hybrid electric aircraft developer Zunum Aero.
The airline will be the first recipient of Zunum’s hybrid, range-extended electric models, and will take on as many as 100 aircraft in 6- or 12-seat configurations. Deliveries are expected to begin in the “early 2020s”, although according to reports JetSuite has only reserved “a fraction” of the first 100 actual production models.
The specifics of deliveries will be set closer to 2022, Bloomberg reported citing an email from Zunum CEO Ashish Kumar, although the LA Times also notes that the airline expects to receive around one plane a month over the first few years of the partnership.
JetSuite is backed by Qatar Airways and airline operator JetBlue, which has already invested in Zunum. The aircraft developer, meanwhile, is also backed by Boeing.
The aircraft itself will be capable of legs of around 700 miles at a time, at a top speed 340mph and max altitude of 25,000 feet. The company has said it intends to develop its technology to cope with 1000+-mile flight ranges by 2030.
Zunum has said its design will incorporate battery packs within the plane’s wings. However, battery specifications – the crucial determining factor in any e-aviation innovation – have not been stated by the company, although its website does detail that storage would have to account for less than 20% of its max take-off weight of 11,500 lbs (5,200kg). That’s just over 1,000kg of batteries, which today is maybe enough for around 250 kWh of batteries – but greater energy density will almost certainly be needed to reach the ranges discussed.
Zunum’s explicit aim is to allow smaller aircraft to fly via some of the roughly 5,000 underused regional and general aviation airports in the US. JetSuite has also said it expects to reduce its fuel costs by up to 80% using these planes.
“We are thrilled by this partnership, given our shared vision of disrupting the status quo in aviation. JetSuite offers fast semi-private flights at commercial fares via JetSuiteX, which operates out of private terminals, allowing travellers to bypass large hubs which make short-haul travel far from efficient today, with traffic, baggage claims and security lines,” said co-founder and CTO Matt Knapp in a statement.
“In short, this is just the beginning of a new era of fast, affordable and convenient travel.”