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A hybrid-electric plane will get a boost from a French engine giant

A hybrid-electric plane will get a boost from a French engine giant
[Photo: courtesy of Zunum]

Hybrid-to-electric airplane manufacturer Zunum Aero and France’s Safran Helicopter Engines are teaming up to create the airplane of the future–fuel efficient, cost efficient, and better for the planet.

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Zunum Aero, the Seattle-based startup backed by Boeing and JetBlue Technology Ventures, announced plans for its first hybrid-electric planes last year. Private-jet charter company JetSuite quickly jumped on board, ordering “up to 100” of Zunum’s 12-seater hybrid-electric planes with the hopes of having them in their fleet and in the air by around 2022. Zunum is one step closer to making that deadline thanks to the partnership it announced today with Safran.

Zunum’s planes operate on a unique hybrid system (more about that here) that can seamlessly move between a turbine engine and batteries. Safran’s new-generation engine turbine will drive the electrical generator in the Zunum ZA10, the first in the company’s family of hybrid-to-electric aircraft.

Safran’s engine is a critical element of the ZA10’s hybrid powertrain as it is compact, high power, low weight, and fuel efficient. Zunum says it’s a world-class turbo-generator at a fraction of the traditional cost, contributing to Zunum’s promised 60% to 80% lower operating costs, with those costs pricing out at around just 8¢ per available seat mile. The cost savings is more than just good business, because saving the planet looks even better when you’re saving money, too.


Read more: Inside Zunum Aero’s hybrid-electric plane


While the news is exciting for Zunum, it’s also good for Safran, which can demonstrate its ability to make engines that work perfectly in hybrid planes. It’s a good skill set to have as consumers and companies look to electric alternatives to curb their carbon footprint and help slow the march of global warming.

The integrated turbo-generator unit will be tested first on the ground at the Safran Helicopter Engines facility in France, before being installed on the Zunum flying test bed in the fall of 2019.

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