Wabtec, GM announce battery, fuel cell collaboration

By Jack Burke15 June 2021

Companies will develop, commercialize technology

Wabtec Corp. and General Motors will collaborate to develop and commercialize GM’s Ultium battery technology and HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell systems for Wabtec locomotives.

“The rail industry is on the cusp of a sustainable transformation with the introduction of batteries and hydrogen to power locomotive fleets,” said Rafael Santana, CEO and president of Wabtec. “Our FLXdrive locomotive, the world’s first 100% battery powered locomotive, has proven its potential to slash carbon emissions by up to 30% when operating at 6 MWh. But we can’t stop there. By working with GM on Ultium battery and HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell technologies, we can accelerate the rail industry’s path to decarbonization and pathway to zero-emission locomotives by leveraging these two important propulsion technologies.”

Last month, Wabtec announced that its FLXdrive all-electric locomotive, during a test program with BNSF Railway (BNISF.UL) in California, delivered more than an 11% average reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for the entire train - the equivalent of over 6,200 gallons of diesel fuel saved and about 69 tons of CO2 emissions reduced. It is also developing hydrogen fuel-cell-powered locomotives.

Wabtec and GM signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding to advance the two companies’ shared vision of a zero emissions future in transportation. Wabtec will bring its expertise in energy management and systems optimization, to develop a solution for heavy haul locomotives that takes full advantage of GM’s advanced technologies.

“Rail networks are critical to transportation and to GM’s ability to serve our customers across North America, and Wabtec’s bold plan to de-carbonize heavy haul and other locomotive applications helps advance our vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” said Mark Reuss, GM president. “Wabtec’s decision to deploy GM’s Ultium battery and HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell systems further validates our advanced technology and demonstrates its versatility.”

The companies said GM’s Ultium battery technology is anticipated to provide the flexibility, efficiency, power and reliability needed for rail. Ultium Cells LLC, GM’s joint venture with LG Energy Solution, is currently constructing battery cell plants in Ohio and Tennessee.

GM’s HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell power cubes are designed to be compact and easy to package and can be used in a wide range of applications, including locomotives. HYDROTEC fuel cell systems will be assembled by Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing LLC in Brownstown, Michigan, the manufacturing joint venture between General Motors and Honda.

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