An ambitious ‘Tour de France’ this month with VoltAero's Cassio 1 demonstrator aircraft will underscore the company's commitment to developing a family of hybrid-electric aircraft for sustainable regional air transportation.
Departing from France's Atlantic seaport city of Lorient on 5 July, Cassio 1 will make 10 stopovers in a flight plan (weather permitting) that covers destinations in the country's north, east and south, before returning to the west for its conclusion on 11 July at Rochefort.
This first ever travel circuit of its type by a hybrid-electric aircraft will involve stopovers at Tours, Le Havre, Toussus-le-Noble in the Paris region, Troyes, Dijon, Annecy, Aix-en- Provence, Nimes and Toulouse.
The trip's segments represent typical regional short- and medium-haul flights that can be efficiently served by hybrid-electric aircraft, bringing clean, quiet and efficient air mobility to local airports. Overall, the hybrid-electric Tour de France will cover a distance of more than 1,440 nm for a combined flight time of approximately 28 hours.
“With Cassio 1's French tour, we are providing realistic examples of how our future family of Cassio aircraft will bring reliable and eco-friendly air service to regions that more than ever require such connections,” explains Jean Botti, VoltAero's CEO and chief technology officer. “Such a service will have the full benefits of low noise operations and reduced CO2 emissions that come with hybrid-electric aviation.”
Supporting VoltAero during the Tour de France will be French airport and infrastructure operator Edeis, which is providing logistics assistance as the partner during this trip. Landings are to be made at eight of the 19 airports managed by Edeis in France.
Guided visits of Cassio 1 and onsite briefings by VoltAero are to be performed at each destination. Attendees invited for the stopovers include elected officials, business leaders, air service providers, airport operators and other key players in transportation infrastructure.
The Cassio 1 demonstrator aircraft is a flying testbed utilised by VoltAero to validate its proprietary hybrid-electric power module, which combines electric motors and an internal combustion engine. With its multiple sources of energy, the hybrid-electric power module provides safe and efficient operations by utilising one source of power (electrical or mechanical) or both, depending on the flight scenario.
In a typical trip, the module's electrical motors would be used for nearly-silent takeoffs and landings, with the internal combustion engine serving as a range extender once Cassio is airborne, and also recharging the batteries.
To date, the performance and capabilities of VoltAero's hybrid-electric power module have been proven during more than 105 flights of the Cassio 1 demonstrator aircraft, logging 76 total flight hours. The concept that is integrated on Cassio 1 will be used for VoltAero's family of production aircraft.
Also installed on the Cassio 1 demonstrator aircraft are two forward-mounted Safran Electrical & Power ENGINeUS smart electric motors, which VoltAero is using in performance verifications as part of its flight test programme.
The first production Cassio aircraft version to be built will be the four-seat Cassio 330, with a combined hybrid-electric power of 330 kilowatts. Cassio 330 deliveries are targeted for the second half of 2023, to be followed by the Cassio 480 and Cassio 600, utilising hybrid-electric propulsion rated at 480 and 600 kilowatts, respectively.
Production Cassio aircraft are to have a cruise speed of 200 kts, with an airport takeoff/landing distance of less than 1,800 ft. They will be designed for an availability of 10 hours a day, equivalent to approximately eight rotations daily in regional air service, as well as for pilot schools, in the transport of cargo and for medical airlift.
At full rate, VoltAero anticipates producing approximately 150 aircraft per year for the complete Cassio aircraft family.