Kawasaki Motors has become a strategic investor in VoltAero, joining Series B funding for the development, production, and certification of VoltAero’s Cassio electric-hybrid aircraft family. The companies revealed the undisclosed investment just prior to the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva but did not specify a dollar amount.
On May 23, fractional ownership group Sky2Share announced it has placed pre-orders for 15 of the five-seat Cassio 330 model. The agreement takes the number of provisional sales commitments booked by VoltAero to 218, including both orders and options.
Swiss-based Sky2Share, which is committed to operating private flights with lower carbon emissions, has the option to change its order to take the larger Cassio 480 and 600 models. "We are impressed with VoltAero's progress in developing the Cassio aircraft family's clean-sheet design, which offers the right solution for our economically-viable and socially-responsible services as a truly sustainable alternative to traditional business aviation. We are thrilled that the Cassio family will allow us to radically reduce the environmental impact of our operations."
The Series B round marks the third funding phase for VoltAero, positioning it for the industrialization of its Cassio 330, the first member of Cassio’s electric-hybrid aircraft family. It builds on an earlier €32 million investment by Italy's TESI group in November 2022.
“Kawasaki’s engine expertise and its capacity for innovation brings a new dimension to VoltAero as we complete the final definition of our electric-hybrid powertrain for the Cassio aircraft family,” said Jean Botti, VoltAero’s CEO and chief technology officer. “Having Kawasaki as a strategic investor is another major vote of confidence for the Cassio program.” However, the French start-up has not specified exactly how its new Japanese backer may contribute to the Cassio's propulsion system.
Featuring a forward fixed canard and aft-set wings with twin booms supporting a T-tail horizontal stabilizer, the Cassio will use Safran's EngineUs electric motors in the aft fuselage-mounted propulsion system for all-electric power during taxi, takeoff, and landing. The hybrid feature – with an internal combustion engine – comes into play as a range extender, recharging the batteries while in flight. The hybrid element also serves as a backup in the event of a problem with the electric propulsion.
Cassio plans to offer three versions of the aircraft, each sharing a high degree of modularity and commonality. The company’s use case targets regional commercial operators, air taxi/charter companies, private owners, and utility-category services for cargo, postal delivery, and medevac applications.
Cassio Family Will Have Range Up to 800 Miles
Plans call for the five-seat Cassio 330, powered by the 330-kilowatt electric-hybrid propulsion system, to come first. VoltAero’s follow-on six-seat Cassio 480 would generate electric-hybrid propulsion power of 480 kilowatts, while the 12-seat Cassio 600 would feature useful power of 600 kilowatts.
The aircraft will be certified under EASA's CS23 certification specifications for single-engine, general aviation aircraft. Each Cassio aircraft will have a maximum range of about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) and a cruise speed of around 230 mph (370 km/h). The all-electric range would be less than 94 miles (150 kilometers).
Headquartered at the Aérodrome de Royan-Médis in southwest France, Cassio plans to start final assembly in a purpose-built facility at the Rochefort Charente-Maritime Airport in France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.
At the 2022 EBACE show, VoltAero announced plans to sell fractional shares in the Cassio aircraft.
This story was updated on May 23 to add details about Sky2Share's pre-order for the Cassio 330 model.