France-based hybrid-electric aircraft developer VoltAero has completed the first tranche in its Series B financing, with Italy's TESI becoming a strategic investor and industrial partner. The new funding round, which includes a $32 million capital raise, will cover certification and production launch of the first member of its three variant, electric-hybrid aircraft family, the five seat, 300 kW-powered Cassio 330.
“TESI's decision to become both a strategic investor and an industrial partner is a clear sign of VoltAero's technology and business model credibility as we take this important step closer to reality for the Cassio aircraft family with the Series B funding round,” says VoltAero CEO and chief technology officer Jean Botti.
This third funding phase positions it for industrialisation of the Cassio 330, which entered the certification process with EASA in October 2021.
TESI (Tecnologie E Servizi Innovativi) will produce the airframe for the first Cassio 330 prototype, which is targeted to make its maiden flight in 2023.
“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,” says TESI CEO Luigi Punzo.
The Cassio airframe design is based on a sleek, aerodynamically-optimised fuselage, a forward fixed canard and an aft-set wing with twin booms that support a high-set horizontal tail. By integrating VoltAero's proprietary electric-hybrid propulsion system into the 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.
TESI will build the Cassio 330 certification prototype airframe at its Cicerale facility in the Campania region of southwestern Italy. The company is specialised 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.
Cassio aircraft will utilise electric motors in the aft fuselage-mounted propulsion system 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.
Since 2020, VoltAero's electric-hybrid propulsion system has undergone extensive airborne evaluations with the full-power 600 kW version installed on the Cassio 1 demonstrator aircraft, making it the world's first parallel electric-hybrid powertrain to fly. To date, Cassio 1 has logged some 10,000 km with this electric-hybrid propulsion system in flights across France and to the UK, which has allowed the company to validate the operational cost assumptions for its future aircraft through the large volume of data accumulated during 135 flight hours.
Production Cassio aircraft will be built in three versions, each sharing a high degree of modularity and commonality. The family will provide a highly capable and reliable product line for regional commercial operators, air taxi/charter companies and private owners, as well as in utility category service for cargo, postal delivery and medevac applications.
VoltAero is headquartered at the Aérodrome de Royan-Médis in southwest France, and its Cassio aircraft are to undergo final assembly in a dedicated facility at Rochefort airport in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.