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Pictured is GM’s Ultium battery technology.
Ultium battery technology is “anticipated to provide the flexibility, efficiency, power and reliability needed for rail,” according to Wabtec and GM. Ultium Cells LLC, a GM-LG Energy Solution joint venture, is currently constructing battery cell plants in Ohio and Tennessee for future GM vehicles.
The HYDROTEC fuel cell power cubes contain more than 300 fuel cells along with thermal and power management systems, according to GM. (Photo by Steve Fecht for GM.)
The partners describe GM’s HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell power cubes as “compact and easy to package and can be used in a wide range of applications, including locomotives.” The HYDROTEC fuel cell systems are slated to be assembled by Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing LLC, a GM-Honda joint venture, in Brownstown, Mich.
Wabtec President and CEO Rafael Santana
“The rail industry is on the cusp of a sustainable transformation with the introduction of batteries and hydrogen to power locomotive fleets,” said Wabtec President and CEO Rafael Santana, who was recently selected as an Influential Leader in Railway Age’s second-annual readers’ online poll. “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.”
“Rail networks are critical to transportation and to GM’s ability to serve our customers across North America,” GM President Mark Reuss said. “Wabtec’s decision to deploy GM’s Ultium battery and HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell systems further validates our advanced technology and demonstrates its versatility.”
Earlier this year, Wabtec and BSNF teamed on a three-month pilot of a FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive in a revenue service train, and on May 17, reported that it reduced fuel consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an average of 11%.
Wabtec said then that its next step would be to build a “second-generation locomotive with a battery capacity of more than 6 megawatt hours—a level of energy that can reduce a locomotive consist’s fuel consumption and carbon emissions by up to 30%.” It could be commercialized and enter service “in the next few years,” the company noted.
In related developments, Canadian Pacific launched a hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) program in December 2020, which is retrofitting a line-haul diesel-electric locomotive with Ballard Power Systems hydrogen fuel cells and Leclanché’s European-manufactured lithium-ion batteries to power the locomotive’s electric traction motors.
More Railway Age articles on alternate-technology-powered locomotives:
Editor’s Note: Locomotive technology appears to be coming full-circle: GM (General Motors) acquired EMC (Electro-Motive Corporation) in the 1930s and renamed it EMD (Electro-Motive Division), whose largest competitor for decades was General Electric (GE). GM divested EMD, which was renamed Electro-Motive Diesel and eventually acquired by Progress Rail, which is then acquired by Caterpillar. GE spun off GE Transportation to Wabtec, which is now offering a battery locomotive using GM battery technology. – William C. Vantuono
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