As part of the Netherlands' Power Up initiative, a collaboration aimed at positioning the country for the introduction of electric-powered commercial passenger flights within five years, France-based hybrid-electric aircraft developer VoltAero is to deploy its Cassio 1 testbed for a week of demonstration flights. Starting on 13 June, the parallel hybrid aircraft will be used to promote sustainable regional aviation throughout selected routes across the Dutch regions.
“Our cooperation is an excellent opportunity to show how Cassio can significantly lower carbon emissions and reduce noise by using VoltAero's proven electric-hybrid propulsion system,” says CEO and chief technology officer Jean Botti. “With the service entry of Cassio production aircraft to begin in 2024, our timing is perfectly matched to the Netherlands' goal of being a pioneer in sustainable aviation.”
The flights are to include analyses of operational costs, noise performance, ground infrastructure requirements and technical support for the future use of Cassio family aircraft by commercial aviation operators. VoltAero's proven electric aircraft expertise led to its selection for these demonstration flights, becoming the first company to do so within the Power Up initiative's framework.
Power Up is an initiative of the four main regional airports in the Netherlands: Eindhoven, Rotterdam The Hague, Groningen Eelde and Maastricht Aachen, with support from Schiphol Group and other partners aimed at facilitating and stimulating the introduction of electric regional air mobility (eRAM) in the Netherlands. The initiative is an open-source accelerator in which aircraft manufacturers (OEMs), airlines and airports work together to develop a new, sustainable and efficient mobility product, improving the connectivity of regions.
Eindhoven airport is the agreement signatory with VoltAero for the Netherlands' demonstration flights. Located in the south of the country, this airport will be the base of operations for Cassio 1 during its flights.
“VoltAero is an extremely valuable partner, bringing its electric-hybrid aircraft expertise already gained with Cassio 1's operations on segments that mirror typical airline regional routes in our country,” adds Eindhoven airport CEO Roel Hellemons. “Additionally, the VoltAero team's combined knowledge of e-aviation will be a true resource in helping define the future deployment and handling of electric aircraft flights.”
VoltAero's proprietary electric-hybrid powertrain has undergone extensive airborne evaluations since 2020 on the Cassio 1 testbed in its 600 kW full power output, becoming the world's first truly parallel hybrid configuration to fly. Cassio 1 has flown nearly 10,000 km in operations across Europe, thereby de-risking the propulsion system and battery chain for airworthiness certification.
The VoltAero propulsion concept is such that Cassio aircraft will utilise their propulsive electric motors for all-electric power during taxi, take off, 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.
VoltAero is well advanced in full scale development of the aircraft family, which is to be produced with capacities of four to 12 seats. This family will provide a highly capable and reliable product line for commercial flights, air taxi/charter companies, private owners, as well as in utility-category service for cargo, postal delivery and medical evacuation applications.
Production Cassio aircraft will be built in three versions, each sharing a high degree of modularity and commonality. First to be certified is the Cassio 330, with four/five seats and powered by a 330 kW electric-hybrid power module. VoltAero's follow on, the six seat Cassio 480, will have an electric-hybrid propulsion power of 480 kW, while the Cassio 600 is sized at a 10/12 seat capacity with electric-hybrid propulsion power of 600 kW.
VoltAero has based the overall Cassio design on an aerodynamically optimised fuselage, a forward canard and an aft-set wing with twin booms that support a high horizontal tail. It will be certified to Europe's EASA CS23 specification as a single engine, general aviation category aircraft and is designed from the start for a low cost of ownership.
Cassio aircraft are to be built in a dedicated production facility at Rochefort airport in France's Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Groundbreaking is scheduled in 2022.