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Airbus Has Its Sights Set On Hybrid Electric Planes

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The new Airbus A350 XWB stands on the production premisses of the European aircraft manufacturing company Airbus in Hamburg, northern Germany on April 07, 2014. Airbus presented the interior of its future A350 which - according to the company - will offer 'more personal space, flexibility and comfort' than other aircrafts in its class. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK LUX (Photo credit should read PATRICK LUX/AFP/Getty Images) | PATRICK LUX via Getty Images

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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