Electric travel is now the future of domestic aviation in America. An airline startup, Zunum Aero, just unveiled a bold new plan to develop a series of electric and hybrid aircrafts, lowering the overall cost of air travel and, in turn, the US carbon footprint.
On average, a 4,000-mile flight requires 20,000 gallons of fuel. And according to FlightStats — an online air travel stat source — an average of 90,000 flights take off every day. That’s a lot of emissions.
As a matter of fact, jet fuel produces a total of 21 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per gallon burned.
Since 1990, CO2 emissions from international aviation have increased by 83%, according to the David Suzuki Foundation — a science-based environmental organization. CO2 emissions have commonly been linked back to serious health hazards and lasting environmental costs.
Zunum Aero claims that 40% of airline pollution comes from regional flights.
The team has been working with the Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems at the University of Illinois on a “hybrid-to-electric” approach, combining battery storage with engine-generated power. A software system onboard would indicate when the engine needs to be turned on, and for how long.
“As batteries become more capable, the airplane’s power train could go all-electric,” Ashish Kumar, the founder and CEO of the company, said.
Zunum plans on starting with 10-passenger aircrafts in 2020 before shifting over to bigger ones once technology is further developed. Domestic routes have fallen into disuse, they claim, because of a decades-long trend that favors large aircrafts and bigger airports.
“Our stock of 13,500 airports [in the US] is the largest in the world,” the company stated on its website. “Yet just 140 of the largest hubs carry over 97% of air traffic.”
The company recently won the financial backing from major airlines like Boeing Co. and JetBlue Technology Ventures, a subsidiary of JetBlue Airways.
But Zunum isn’t the only company finding ways to sustainably traverse the globe.
Just last year, Solar Impulse — a Swiss long-range experimental aircraft project — became the first team to circumnavigate the world on a flight fueled solely by solar energy. Airbus has its E-Fan program to develop electric aircraft concepts. And Boeing and NASA have long been putting resources into hybrid-electric development projects. Even Uber is working on electric-powered flying cars.
The landscape of transportation is radically changing for the better, and companies like Zunum Aero are leading that revolution.