EBACE Convention News

VoltAero Wins Kawasaki Funding for Hybrid-electric Aircraft

 - May 25, 2023, 8:19 PM
VoltAero is developing the Cassio family of hybrid-electric aircraft. (Photo: David McIntosh)

Kawasaki Motors has become a strategic investor in VoltAero, joining Series B funding for the development, production, and certification of VoltAero’s Cassio electric-hybrid aircraft family. The companies revealed the undisclosed investment on Monday at EBACE.  

The Series B round marks the third funding phase for VoltAero (Booth A20, Static AD_20), positioning it for the industrialization of its Cassio 330, the first member of Cassio’s electric-hybrid aircraft family. It builds on an earlier €32 million ($35 million) investment by Italy's TESI group in November 2022.

“Kawasaki’s engine expertise and its capacity for innovation bring a new dimension to VoltAero as we complete the final definition of our electric-hybrid powertrain for the Cassio aircraft family,” said Jean Botti, VoltAero’s CEO and chief technology officer. “Having Kawasaki as a strategic investor is another major vote of confidence for the Cassio program.” However, the French start-up has not specified exactly how its new Japanese backer may contribute to Cassio's propulsion system.

Featuring a forward fixed canard and aft-set wings with twin booms supporting a T-tail horizontal stabilizer, the Cassio will use Safran's EngineUs electric motors in the aft fuselage-mounted propulsion system for all-electric power during taxi, takeoff, and landing. The hybrid feature—with an internal combustion engine—comes into play as a range extender, recharging the batteries while in flight. The hybrid element also serves as a backup in the event of a problem with the electric propulsion.

Cassio plans to offer three versions of the aircraft, each sharing a high degree of modularity and commonality. The company’s use case targets regional commercial operators, air taxi/charter companies, private owners, and utility-category services for cargo, postal delivery, and medevac applications.

Plans call for the five-seat Cassio 330, powered by the 330-kilowatt electric-hybrid propulsion system, to come first. VoltAero’s follow-on six-seat Cassio 480 would generate electric-hybrid propulsion power of 480 kilowatts, while the 12-seat Cassio 600 would feature useful power of 600 kilowatts.

The aircraft will be certified under EASA's CS23 certification specifications for single-engine, general aviation aircraft. Each Cassio aircraft will have a maximum range of about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) and a cruise speed of around 230 mph (370 km/h).  The all-electric range would be less than 94 miles (150 kilometers). 

Headquartered at the Aérodrome de Royan-Médis in southwest France, Cassio plans to start final assembly in a purpose-built facility at the Rochefort Charente-Maritime Airport in France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.

At EBACE 2022, VoltAero announced plans to sell fractional shares in the Cassio aircraft.