Forget cars, Boeing-backed startup to bring electric planes to market by 2020

Zunum Aero, a startup backed by aerospace giants Boeing and JetBlue, announced a deal on Thursday that brings it one step closer to its goal of making electric aircraft a reality.

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The company will partner with Safran, a French aerospace company and the world’s leading manufacturer of helicopter engines, to bring a hybrid-to-electric commercial aircraft to market by early 2020. Safran will provide the engine to power Zunum’s 12-seat craft, which it says will be able to offer door-to-door travel times that are two-to-four times faster than what is currently possible.

The aircraft, called the ZA10, can travel 700 miles and will be powered by both batteries and a turboshaft gas engine. The company says its technology will lower operating costs by 60 percent to 80 percent per mile when compared with traditional commercial planes of comparable size.

The company plans ground and flight testing in 2019.

Zunum, which is based out of Seattle and Chicago, is backed by the venture arms of both Boeing and JetBlue. Executives from both companies sit on its board of directors.