Cassio, an electric hybrid aircraft is ready for takeoff

Jean Botti, former Managing Director of Technology and Innovation of the Airbus Group, a pioneer in electric aviation, founded VoltAero in 2017 in Rouen (Charente-Maritime). Especially in the summer of 2021, it is time to prove yourself by conducting a tour of France to airports without the slightest incident. The device is equipped with a pair of engines installed in parallel: electric and thermal.

Jean Botti especially worked on the specialty of electric Cri-Cri, a small tourist device in 2011. Before moving with Airbus on the E-FAN electric plane project, which first took off from Bordeaux-Mérignac airport in 2014. At 500 kg, this two-seater trainer should be classified as an ultra-light aircraft while waiting. aircraft manufacturers to cope with electric commercial formats such as the Airbus A-320. Despite its undisputed aeronautical performance, especially when it crossed the English Channel, the E-FAN did not end up on a commercial level due to the lack of an immature market. The ambitions of the new hybrid device are completely different.

“Cassio is a hybrid aircraft with two propulsion systems installed in parallel. It takes off and lands with an electric motor and can fly for a distance of 200 km. If necessary, the internal combustion engine can extend missions up to 1,200 km. This hybrid profile gives Cassio a huge security gain with a doubling of systems. If an accident occurred with the electric engine during takeoff, say at 150 m, the pilot could switch to the thermal engine at once by simply pushing the electric on the thermal transfer arm. Because the internal combustion engine is idle in the background during all phases of flight and landing.” Jean Botti explains.

Another advantage: its electric battery is charged during flight. At an initial range of 200 km, Cassio requires a very small fraction of heat loss, or 1-2% of the total energy requirement. In addition, between 200 and 600 km, the electric motor meets 30% of the aircraft’s energy needs, and then 8% between 600 and 1,200 km. Currently, the company plans three types of electric motorization: 330 kilowatts (Cassio 330: four to five passengers), 480 kilowatts (Cassio 480: six passengers), 600 kilowatts (Cassio 600: ten to twelve passengers).

The planes will be assembled at Rocheford

In order to open the doors to the widest possible market, VoltAero offers devices that are quieter than cars, emphasizes Jan Botti. This should allow Cassio to fly 24 hours a day without disturbing the airports neighborhood too much. And it was with “ENGINeUs 45” electric motors that the Cassio demonstrator was able to complete the tour of France in the summer of 2021. Safran Electrical & Power subsidiary is a real pleasure for the Safran group that developed this engine.

“The interest of the market is great. We prefer to be discreet, but we have many requests. The interest is there. It has gotten to the point where an international airline has pre-ordered more than a hundred planes. This contract has not yet been finalized, but customers’ expectations for this type of device are high.” Jean Botti confirms that the transition of the world of aeronautics to sustainable development is continuing successfully.

To be able to fly, the aircraft must have a certificate. An important step that takes time and exists between national and European authorizations.

“Our demonstrator has been supervised by the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC) since 2018, and certification with the European Union began in 2021. The battery of flight and ground tests will continue until the end of 2023. This means that we plan to start delivering the first models from the second half of 2024. » the leader explains.

Depending on its format, Cassio can quickly become a cargo carrier. VoltAero, founded in the seaside town of Royan (Charente-Maritime), created a mini-earthquake last year when it finally announced that it would be located in Rochefort, a few tens of kilometers away, to assemble its planes. .

“We are in discussions with the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region and Rochefort, who support us financially. We are still in Royan, but next year we will be in Rochefort where our production equipment will be installed. Cri-cri, I would also like to welcome the Region, which has been supporting our projects with E-FAN for years. Financial issues, we are in the middle of it! We have managed to get financial support from the European Union, but this is conditional and will only work if we find capital from other investors equivalent to the amount that the Union has promised to allocate to us. If our current negotiations are successful, everything will be fine.” Jan Botti says.

State support is needed

In the near future, the founder and director of VoltAero needs the support of the state in the development of Cassio, which is currently competing in France. According to the specialized press, Cassio will cost 45 million euros to complete, and the program has so far mobilized 12 million euros in state aid and private investment. The VoltAero project is going through a new waiting phase on the financing side.

While Jean Botti, who has dual French and American citizenship, was in the United States, he agreed to answer questions from journalists. View T. “My family is here, explains. So my being in this country has nothing to do with VoltAero. My goal is to develop VoltAero thanks to Cassio and to find a predominantly French solution to put France back at the center of general aviation. If it works, we will do everything in France. Otherwise, we will have to turn to the United States” warns the boss.

However, the head of VoltAero thinks that a solution for this future project can be found in the country of Clément Ader. Last July, during the Farnborough airshow (United Kingdom), the Thales group confirmed the start of a collaboration with VoltAero, which aims to improve Cassio’s performance, especially in terms of autonomy.

“VoltAero usually implements a project that should be financed under the France 2030 program. In addition, we work with Bpifrance, they are active, this is encouraging” measure the leader by grudge.

Meanwhile, the manager explains that his company is in the middle of a transition “Death Valley Pass”that delicate moment of transition from research and development to market.

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