Airbus is learning from automakers as it works on developing a small aircraft powered by hybrid electric engines that could represent its first move into the market for regional jets.
The development of a regional plane, seating between 70 and 90 people, that can take off and land using electric power could take between 15 and 20 years, Airbus Group Chief Technology Officer Jean Botti told reporters in Munich.
Airbus, which with Boeing dominates the market for passenger jets, presently makes planes that seat more than 150 people.
Airbus is already working on an all-electric two-seater plane, powered by two electric motors with a combined output of 60 kilowatts, hoping this technology will serve as a step to bringing electric motors on to larger aircraft.
The two-seater, which Airbus says is suited for short missions such as pilot training and aerobatics, can run on its lithium-ion polymer batteries for half an hour, with the aim to get it up to an hour.
The batteries are tricky, Botti said. "They're causing us a lot of headaches."