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General Motors and Wabtec Will Develop Electric Locomotives Together

General Motors and rail equipment provider Wabtec Corporation recently announced a partnership to develop and commercialize electric locomotives.
Wabtec FLXdrive Electric locomotive 1 photo
The collaboration aims to use GM’s Ultium battery technology and Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell system to power Wabtec’s locomotives, in an attempt to decarbonize the rail transport industry. General Motors battery technology will supposedly provide the necessary power, flexibility, and efficiency required for rail. Ultium battery cell plants are currently under construction in both Tennessee and Ohio.

On the other hand, the Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell power cubes from GM are versatile and compact. The fact that they are easy to package makes them suitable for locomotives, as well as a variety of other applications. The hydrogen fuel cell systems will be assembled in Michigan.

As far as Wabtec’s contribution goes, the company plans to bring to the table its expertise in terms of energy management and system optimization. The goal is to figure out how to fully harness the advanced technologies provided by GM.

The partnership between Wabtec and GM comes after Wabtec proved itself through its FLXdrive locomotive, the world’s first 100 percent battery-powered locomotive. Wabtec claims the FLXdrive has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by up to 30 percent when operating at 6 MWh.

But for now, the first generation of FLXdrive locomotives weighs 430,000-pounds. The vehicle uses 18,000 lithium-ion battery cells and for its first test, which took place in California, it traveled across 13,320 miles (over 21,000 km). It charged at the rail yard and then through regenerative braking, on the way to its destination.

The FLXdrive locomotive managed to achieve an 11 percent reduction in carbon emissions. However, Wabtec is feeling optimistic and claims the second-generation locomotive can easily go to 30 percent.

Wabtec’s success with its first battery-powered locomotive served as a source of inspiration as the company plans to take sustainable rail transport even further and develop zero-emission locomotives. And the partnership with GM is the right step in that direction.



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