The United States currently accounts for 49.7% of the global private jet market, while Europe is in second with 20.8% market share. Private jets have been serving businesses in and out of the U.S. for years, but it looks like the entire airline industry is going to be revolutionized in the near future.
According to Tech Crunch, beginning in five years, the entire fundamental economics of regional flight is going to drastically change.
There are roughly 28 million small businesses in the U.S., but only a handful are working on being at the forefront of aviation technologies. The Seattle-based company, Zunum Aero, however, is doing just that. With backing by Boeing’s HorizonX funding and JetBlue’s Technology Ventures, Zunum Aero plans on launching its first aircraft in 2022.
The first Zunum aircraft is designed to seat 12 passengers and could only cost approximately $260 per hour for operating the aerial machine.
“In the past, very intentionally, we were quiet about operating costs, because it’s just shockingly low what you can get with an electric,” said Ashish Kumar, CEO of Zunum. “So that you can get an aircraft of a size that could never compete with an airliner that can get you below commercial fares.
Zuni expects that the cost per seat for operating expenses on this revolutionary aircraft will be approximately eight cents per mile, which is nearly one-tenth of the operating cost of a conventional business jet per hour.
Futurism reports that the hybrid-electric airliner will be able to carry up to 12 passengers a distance of 700 miles and only increase over time. Currently, battery tech is lacking so trips could only reach around 100 miles, but this technology will continue to improve over time and Zunum will not be as reliant on generators.
By the year 2030, for example, the company fully expects to have a functioning aircraft carrying 50 passengers up to 1,000 miles.
“We’re getting airline pricing down on a small plane and doing it for short distances,” added Matt Knapp, co-founder of Zunum. “That kind of aircraft doesn’t currently exist.”
Zunem claims that approximately 96% of U.S. air traffic uses just 1% of the entire country’s airports. These smaller, electric planes could take advantage of smaller airports, effectively cutting travel time and layover waiting time significantly.
“By the time this aircraft is in the air in early 2020 everyone will have ridden in an electric car or ridden in an electric bus,” Kumar added. “This is the first time in 70 years that you actually get a dramatically new propulsion system entering the business.”
Zunem, Boeing, and JetBlue will likely face plenty of obstacles over the next few years. But as long as the funding is there, and the team’s researchers are diligently working to improve the technological capabilities, the future of airlines will drastically change in the very near future.