The big idea is to show a technology that could help limit emissions of carbon dioxide from aviation and reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the trio think they will have it in the air by 2020.
The aircraft would be based on the existing BAe 146 four-engine regional jet. The hybrid version would generate electric power through a turbine within the plane. That power would be used to turn the fan blades of the single electric turbofan engine. If they can get it to go, a second electric motor could be added.
The companies said plane maker Airbus would be responsible for building the aircraft's systems into a working whole, control systems and flight controls. Jet engine maker Rolls-Royce would make the generator and the turbo-shaft engine and engineering company Siemens would deliver the two-megawatt electric motor to power the engine.
The companies said they were looking ahead to the European Union's long-term goals of reducing CO2 emissions from aviation by 60 percent, as well as meeting noise and pollution limits that they said "cannot be achieved with technologies existing today".
Other projects for hybrid or electric planes are in the works. Kirkland, Washington-based Zunum Aero says it is working on a 12-seat hybrid-electric commuter jet. The company's website lists its partners as Boeing, jetBlue Technology Ventures, and the Department of Commerce Clean Energy Fund.