GM, Wabtec partner for zero-emission locomotives

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

All aboard!

General Motors Co. on Tuesday said it is expanding the uses of its Ultium batteries and Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell systems for locomotives in a partnership with transportation solutions provider Wabtec Corp.

Financial details of the signed nonbinding memorandum were not immediately disclosed. Wabtec, based in Pittsburgh, will bring its expertise in energy management and systems optimization to help GM develop and commercialize its technology for the train tracks — transportation used by the auto industry to deliver vehicles across the continent.

General Motors Co. and Wabtec Corp. are partnering on zero-emission locomotives.

“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,” GM President Mark Reuss said in a statement. 

Wabtec's fully battery-powered FLXdrive locomotive has tested to cut carbon emissions up to 30% while operating at 6 megawatt-hours, according to Wabtec. It would use hundreds of Ultium modules.

“The rail industry is on the cusp of a sustainable transformation with the introduction of batteries and hydrogen to power locomotive fleets,” Wabtec CEO Rafael Santana said in a statement. “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.”

The partnership expands GM's technology beyond roads, showing its flexibility, efficiency, power and reliability needed for rail, according to a news release. The Detroit automaker in January said it was partnering with Navistar Inc. to provide hydrogen fuel cells for a fleet of semi trucks. Last year, GM also signed a memorandum of understanding with startup Nikola Corp. to provide its Hydrotec fuel cell systems for Nikola’s future trucks.

GM's joint venture with LG Energy, Ultium Cells LLC, is constructing battery cell plants in Ohio and Tennessee. Its joint venture with Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing LLC, will produce the Hydrotec fuel cells in Brownstown Township.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble