The French government is backing VoltAero’s work on the Cassio family of hybrid-electric aircraft with a €5.6 million ($6 million) grant. The funding, announced on June 8, is part of the country’s France 2030 investment fund and was awarded by BPI France, the agency tasked with fueling economic growth by backing entrepreneurs.
VoltAero’s propulsion system is based on electric motors installed in the aft fuselage that will be used for all-electric power during taxi and takeoff, as well as during cruise flight on short trips of less than 150 kilometers (94 miles). An internal combustion engine provides supplementary power to extend range, while also recharging the batteries during flights.
In May, Kawasaki Motors announced that it is backing VoltAero’s Series B funding round with a strategic investment of an undisclosed amount and the offer of engine expertise. The new capital builds on a €32 million investment by Italy's TESI group in November 2022.
“This [BPI France] grant is another important vote of confidence in VoltAero and our vision to develop the unique family of Cassio electric-hybrid general aviation airplanes for safe, quiet, efficient, and eco-friendly flight,” said VoltAero CEO and chief technology officer Jean Botti. “It contributes to the Cassio 330’s development, certification, and production.”
VoltAero will be exhibiting at the Paris Air Show later this month and said it will provide a further program update during that event. As it continues development work behind the scenes, the company has been attracting provisional sales commitments from prospective operators, such as fractional ownership group Sky2Share, which on May 23 announced it has placed preorders 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.
Aerospace Groups Safran and Thales Are Cassio Program Partners
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 in flight. The hybrid element also serves as a backup in case of a problem with the electric propulsion.
Another major French aerospace group, Thales, is a program partner, providing its FlytLink Edge computing system. This technology is already being employed to process multiple data streams on VoltAero's Cassio 1 technology demonstrator aircraft, using inputs from onboard cameras and sensors.
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.
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 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.