France-based, VoltAero, who describes its Cassio 330 as “A unique aircraft with parallel electric-hybrid propulsion” recently announced completion of the first tranche in a Series B finance round, with TESI, an Italian engineering firm based in Turin, becoming a strategic investor and industrial partner, reports a press release. The new funding that includes a EUR32 million capital raise, will cover certification and production launch of the Cassio.

Jean Botti, VoltAero’s CEO and CTO, commented, “TESI’s decision to become both a strategic investor and an industrial partner is a sign of VoltAero’s technology and business model credibility.” The Series B round marks the third funding phase for VoltAero which entered the certification process with Europe’s EASA in October 2021.

Jean Botti

TESI will produce the airframe for VoltAero’s No.1 Cassio 330 prototype, which is targeted to make its maiden flight in 2023. The Cassio is a five-seat version, with a combined electric-hybrid propulsive power of 330 kilowatts.

Luigi Punzo, TESI CEO, said, “We have been impressed by VoltAero’s highly intelligent approach with Cassio, applying its dual-source electric-hybrid propulsion concept for regional aviation that will be both sustainable and operationally safe.”

The Cassio airframe design is based on an aerodynamically-optimised fuselage, a forward fixed canard, and an aft-set wing with twin booms that support a high-set horizontal tail.

The release explains, “By integrating VoltAero’s proprietary electric-hybrid propulsion system into the company’s purpose-designed airframe, the Cassio aircraft family will deliver an order of magnitude better performance as compared to the current competition, and provide significant lower operational costs.”

It goes on, “TESI is to construct the Cassio prototype airframe at its Cicerale facility in the Campania region of southwestern Italy. The company specialises in the production and integration of metallic structures and assemblies, as well as mechanical parts with in-house capabilities from machining and forming to assembly, backed by resources for heat and surface treatment.”

The VoltAero propulsion concept is considered unique. The release continues, “The Cassio will utilise electric motors in the aft fuselage-mounted propulsion system for all-electric power during taxi, takeoff, primary flight, and landing.

The hybrid feature (with an internal combustion engine) comes into play as a range extender, recharging the batteries while in flight. Additionally, this hybrid element serves as a backup in the event of a problem with the electric propulsion, ensuring true fail-safe functionality.”

Since 2020, VoltAero’s electric-hybrid propulsion system has undergone extensive airborne evaluations with the full-power 600-kilowatt version installed on the company’s Cassio 1 demonstrator airplane, making it the world’s first parallel electric-hybrid powertrain to fly.

So far, Cassio 1 has logged some 10,000 kilometres and 135 flight hours with this particular propulsion system in trials across France and UK. The aim is to construct three versions of the aircraft. The family group will provide a product line for regional commercial operators, air taxi/charter companies, private owners, as well as in utility-category service for cargo, postal delivery and medical evacuation (Medevac) applications.

First to be certified will be the Cassio 330, with five seats and powered by the 330-kilowatt electric-hybrid propulsion system. VoltAero’s follow-on six-seat Cassio 480 will have an electric-hybrid propulsion power of 480 kilowatts, while the Cassio 600 is sized at a 12-seat capacity with electric-hybrid propulsion power of 600 kilowatts.

Background

VoltAero is headquartered at the Aérodrome de Royan-Médis in southwest France, and its Cassio aircraft are to undergo final construction in a facility at Rochefort Airport in France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.

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(images: Volt Aero)