Thursday, April 18, 2024

GM to supply batteries, hydrogen fuel cells for Wabtec freight locomotives

General Motors (GM) has announced a collaboration with rail technology outfit Wabtec Corporation to develop and commercialize GM’s Ultium battery technology and HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell systems for Wabtec to commercialize zero-emission, heavy-duty locomotives.

Last month, Wabtec showed off the world’s first 100% battery-powered, heavy-haul freight locomotive, which was demonstrated as part of a hybrid system that cut freight train fuel use by 11%. The company plans to build a second-generation version of the technology that will reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 30% and which could enter supply chain routes in the next few years.

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.”

According to the release, the two companies have signed a “nonbinding memorandum of understanding to advance the two companies’ shared vision of a zero-emissions future in transportation.” Wabtec hopes to combine its expertise in energy management and systems optimization with GM’s cutting-edge Ultium technology to develop zero-emission heavy haul locomotives that match or surpass the specifications and performance required for rail transportation.

GM’s HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell power cubes are compact and easy to package and can be used in a wide range of applications, including locomotives. GM also plans to research the possibility of using hydrogen fuel cells. These HYDROTEC cells are currently being produced in Michigan via the manufacturing joint venture between General Motors and Honda.