Revolution.Aero Uplift: Volt from the blue
Small-scale commercial aviation, medical evacuation, cargo and freight. All operating in a manner respectful of the environment, whilst “drastically” reducing noise and without the need to create additional infrastructure. That is what VoltAero’s CEO and chief technology officer, Jean J. Botti PhD is promising. And the Dutch government is backing him.
The France-based electric-parallel hybrid propulsion aircraft-maker has been selected as part of the Netherlands’ four main regional airports’ Power Up Initiative – which aims to get the country ready for electric-powered commercial passenger flights within five to six years.
VoltAero will be performing around 20hrs of flight across five days beginning on June 13th using its Cassio 1 testbed. The flights will look at operational costs, noise performance, ground infrastructure requirements and technical support for the future use of VoltAero’s aircraft by operators.
“This is a mark of confidence for our technology,” Botti tells Revolution.Aero. “We want to display the fact that with electric hybrid aircraft we can perform several types of operations: transportation of people for regional aviation, medical evacuation, cargo and freight.”
“Also, we do not need to create additional infrastructure. We use what is existing,” adds Botti.
Cassio 1 has completed more than 150 flights and 120 hours of operations across 48 airports since 2019. VoltAero plans to produce around 20-30 Cassios in their first year of production (2024). The aircraft will be built at a facility at Rochefort Airport in western France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Groundbreaking on the 150 aircraft-per-year plant is planned later this year.
VoltAero is developing a family of aircraft, from four to 12 seats – Cassio 330, Cassio 480 and Cassio 600. First to certification will be the Cassio 330, with four/five seats powered by a 330-kilowatt electric-hybrid power module. The six-seat Cassio 480 will have an electric-hybrid propulsion power of 480 kilowatts, while the Cassio 600 will have a 10/12-seat capacity and electric-hybrid propulsion power of 600 kilowatts.
The extent to which the aircraft is hybrid will greatly vary the range, according to Botti. For pure electric, it’s less than 200km. “Mild hybrid from 200km to 600km and heavy hybrid from 600km to 1200 km,” he says.
Two new prototype aircraft are under development. “Once we have our new design, Cassio 1 will only be used for demos and the refinement of some technology bricks but not anymore as a development testbed,” says 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,” he adds.
Gerben Broekema, a senior aviation adviser, has been working on the Power Up Initiative since its inception in 2020 and lead several feasibility studies on electric aviation in the Netherlands: “Power Up started out by looking at the intrinsics of the technology – performance, economics, market relevance, noise and environmental impacts etc – to see to what extent, based on its own merits, can it establish itself in the mobility system and how desirable for society it will be.”
After conducting a feasibility study and a market assessment last year, Power Up now is in execution mode . “As airports we want to work with OEMs and operators to develop electric aviation as a new, efficient and sustainable way-of-travel — electric Regional Air Mobility [eRAM]. While there is a lot of attention on electric aircraft technology development across the globe, Power Up is about developing a new harmonised proposition for passengers” said Broekema. More information about the initiative’s plans will be available after VoltAero’s first flight on June 13th.