Boeing and JetBlue Are Funding Electric Aircraft

The hybrid electric aircraft startup Zunum Aero announced that it had received an investment from Boeing and JetBlue (JBLU) .

"I consider us very fortunate to have backers like JetBlue (JBLU) and Boeing," Zunum Aero founder and CEO Ashish Kumar told Business Insider. "We have been engaged with both companies for about a year, and both are as passionate as we are in this opportunity to reinvent regional air travel."

Electric Aircraft Boeing

Zunum is working to build 10-50 seat planes that ‘sip fuel only when they have to,’ and the firm claims their design could decrease door-to-door travel times by 40 percent on busy routes. The firm plans to have regional hybrid-electric aircraft ready by the early 2020s. At launch, they say this will cut travel time and reduce costs for flights around 700 miles. And, by 2030, this is expected to jump to 1,000-mile flights.

“Our charter is looking beyond the horizon,’’ said Steve Nordlund, who heads Boeing HorizonX, the Chicago-based manufacturer’s new venture-capital arm. “We’re looking at traditional, non-traditional partnerships that help us accelerate innovation and market opportunities.’’

Boeing and JetBlue Are Funding Electric Aircraft JetBlue

Zunum, which was founded in 2013 with a name derived from the Mayan word for hummingbird, plans to pair airframes from a choice of dozens of manufacturers worldwide with batteries already developed for cars, to create aircraft that are more efficient than jet-fueled planes. A generator will be on board for backup power or longer flights, Kumar said.

Since the aircraft isn't expected to fly until the next decade and will have a service life of roughly 20 years, Zunum is designing its aircraft to be "future-proof". It means the aircraft will be designed in a way that will allow it to adopt new technology.

In addition, Zunum's propulsor technology is expected to reduce the aircraft's noise emissions by 75% – important for operations into airports with stern noise restrictions.

Zunum's CEO believes his company's nature-friendly electric jet also makes economic sense for airlines and their passengers.