France’s VoltAero plans to perform demonstration flights with its first Cassio hybrid-electric aircraft in the Netherlands starting June 13 to promote sustainable regional aviation in Dutch regions, the company said Tuesday. The weeklong deployment of Cassio 1 forms part of the Netherlands’ effort to introduce electric-powered commercial passenger flights within five years under its Power Up initiative.
Program engineers will assess operational costs, noise performance, ground infrastructure requirements, and technical support for the future use of Cassio family aircraft by commercial aviation operators.
Power Up involves the four main regional airports in the Netherlands (Eindhoven Airport, Rotterdam The Hague Airport, Groningen Airport Eelde, and Maastricht Aachen Airport) with the support of the Schiphol Group and other partners aimed at facilitating and stimulating the introduction of electric Regional Air Mobility (eRAM) in the Netherlands. A so-called open-source accelerator, the initiative brings together aircraft manufacturers, airlines, and airports in a joint effort to improve regional connectivity.
“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,” said VoltAero 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.”
Eindhoven Airport has signed with VoltAero for the Netherlands’ demonstration flights. Located in the southern Netherlands, the airport will serve as 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,” noted 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-kilowatt full-power output. Cassio 1 has flown more than 10,000 kilometers (5,400 nm) in operations across Europe as VoltAero readies the propulsion system and battery chain for airworthiness certification.
Cassio aircraft will use their propulsion system’s electric motors for all-electric power during taxi, takeoff, primary flight, and landing. The hybrid feature—using an internal combustion engine—serves as a range extender, recharging the batteries while in flight. The hybrid combustion engine also serves as a backup in the event of a problem with the electric propulsion.
Three versions of the Cassio aircraft, ranging in capacity from four to 12 seats, are being planned by VoltAero. The company markets the family for operation with airlines, air taxi/charter companies, and private owners, as well as in utility-category service for cargo, postal delivery, and medical evacuation applications.
VoltAero plans first to gain certification of the Cassio 330, carrying four or five seats and powered by a 330-kilowatt electric-hybrid power module. The company’s six-seat Cassio 480 will feature an electric-hybrid propulsion power of 480 kilowatts, while the 10- to 12-seat Cassio 600 will fly on 600 kilowatts.
The Cassio design features a forward canard and an aft-set wing with twin booms that support a high horizontal tail. The company plans to gain certification to Europe’s EASA CS23 specification as a single-engine, general aviation category aircraft.
A production facility dedicated to building the Cassio aircraft is expected to break ground this year at Rochefort Airport in France's Noubelle-Aquitaine region.