VoltAero is planning a first flight for its Cassio hybrid-electric aircraft on March 24 at its Royan headquarters in western France. The private company, backed by former Airbus chief technical officer Jean Botti, claims it will achieve type certification of the all-composite fixed-wing design in a little over two years, in time for deliveries to begin by the end of 2022.
According to VoltAero, the projected production rate will be 150 units per year by 2025. However, it has yet to confirm any orders or commercial commitments for the model, which will be available in various configurations seating up to nine people.
The Cassio is to be certified under the existing CS-23 rules of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. It is aimed at private owners, air taxi services, small-scale commercial airline operations, and various utility roles.
The distributed electric propulsion aircraft is loosely based on the configuration of the Cessna 337 Skymaster, with its distinctive push-pull pairing of piston engines and a high wing. VoltAero designed it with its partner Aero Composites Saintonge (ACS).
The hub of the Cassio’s powerplant is a 402-hp (300-kW) engine that feeds electricity to three 80 hp (60 kW) Emrax electric motors that drive three sets of propellers. Two Safran ENGINeUS 45 electric motors with propellers are mounted on the front booms. In what would be the location of the single forward propeller on the Cessna 337 is a cowl that houses the battery pack. The third propeller is mounted in the aft fuselage.
VoltAero has developed the biofuel-powered engine from a V6 Nissan design in partnership with a company called Solution F. Total power output, for now, is 643 hp (480 kW), but VoltAero is aiming to increase this to 804 hp (600 kW).
The Cassio is projected to have a flight endurance of 3.5 hours (including a 30-minute reserve) and a cruise speed of 230 mph (370 km/h). With a maximum takeoff weight of below 5,500 pounds (2.5 metric tons), the aircraft will be able to take off and land in less than 1,800 feet.
VoltAero will offer the Cassio in four-, six- and nine-seat configurations. The four-seater will be available in all-electric mode, while the six- and nine-seaters will be hybrid-electric.
The four-seat model will have range of up to 125 miles (200 km), while the six-seater will be able to fly up to 375 miles (600 km). By using the engine for propulsion as well as battery charging, the nine-seater could fly more than 375 miles.
Once 20 percent of the power in the batteries has been used, the engine recharges the pack. Botti estimated the cost of ownership around $323 per flight hour, at around eight rotations per day for a total of 10 flight hours.
A key design goal for VoltAero is to ensure that the Cassio is as quiet as possible, including on the ground. As part of this, it will feature an electrically powered nose gear for quiet taxiing. The company is also now developing a glass cockpit avionics suite for the aircraft.
The Cassio will compete most closely with Ampaire’s Electric EEL, which is a hybrid-electric re-engined Cessna 337, as well as with Eviation’s new Alice aircraft.