Washington-based Zunum Aero is developing a plug-in hybrid aircraft, which it believes will revolutionize the regional short-haul air travel market. Now Zunum (profiled in the July/August 2017 issue of Charged) has announced that its ZA10 aircraft, which it plans to launch in the early 2020s, will use a turboshaft from Safran Helicopter Engines.
Safran’s new Ardiden 3Z turboshaft, which will offer between 1,700 and 2,000 shaft horsepower (shp), will be used as a hybrid power source. It will be coupled with an electric generator, and the integrated turbo-generator will deliver 500 kW of electric power to supplement propulsion batteries during key stages of flight and over long ranges.
Zunum CEO Ashish Kumar says the Ardiden 3Z is key to the ZA10 delivering operating costs of 8 cents per seat-mile, or $250 per hour. These cost figures would be 60-80 percent lower than those of comparable conventional aircraft. Kumar cited the outstanding performance of the Ardiden, coupled with Safran’s decades of leadership in gas turbines, as reasons for Zunum’s decision to use it.
Zunum has also announced that it will use the Rockwell Turbo Commander 840 aircraft for flight testing of its hybrid-to-electric powertrain, starting in the middle of next year. “The Turbo Commander has similar weight and performance to the ZA10, as well as excellent single-engine capability, enabling us to modify and test in phases for a high degree of safety,” says Zunum.
Zunum has three development centers, in Washington, Illinois and Indiana. The company is working with Purdue University to develop a low-pressure quiet fan, and with Carnegie Mellon University on the development of airworthy battery packs.