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Airbus eyes regional plane with hybrid engines in 15-20 years

The logo of Airbus Group, Europe's largest aerospace group, is pictured in front of the company headquarters building in Ottobrunn, near Mun
The logo of Airbus Group, Europe's largest aerospace group, is pictured in front of the company headquarters building in Ottobrunn, near Mun

By Irene Preisinger

MUNICH (Reuters) - Aircraft maker Airbus Group NV is learning from carmakers as it works on developing a small plane 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 Co 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."

Botti, who was part of a team developing battery-powered cars at General Motors Co more than 20 years ago, said Airbus was looking at electric cars in order to learn from them.

Botti declined to comment on how much the group was investing in hybrid and electric technologies.

The two-seater E-Fan will be built at Bordeaux in southwest France and production could start at the end of 2017. Botti said he would like to see a prototype for a regional jet in 2030.

(Writing by Victoria Bryan; Editing by David Holmes)

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