General Motors will collaborate with Pennsylvania-based locomotives manufacturer Wabtec to develop new Ultium lithium-ion battery and Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell solutions for use in heavy long-haul trains.
In a statement released Tuesday, the two companies said they have signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding to develop new locomotive solutions that will take advantage of GM’s advanced propulsion technology, which includes its Ultium lithium-ion battery packs and Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cells. Technical information on how the two companies might integrate battery-electric or hydrogen propulsion technology into heavy long haul trains was not provided.
“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 decision to deploy GM’s Ultium battery and Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell systems further validates our advanced technology and demonstrates its versatility.”
GM says its Ultium battery technology “is anticipated to provide the flexibility, efficiency, power and reliability needed for rail.” The automaker’s Ultium battery packs will be produced at its various battery plants around the U.S. and are the result of a joint venture partnership with Korean battery manufacturer LG Chem.
GM’s Hydrotec fuel cell cubes, meanwhile, are currently being engineered for use in Navistar semi trucks, where they are expected to provide over 500 miles of range and refueling times of less than 15 minutes. The automaker previously described the cubes as a “zero-emissions alternative to diesel engines that work multiple shifts, require rapid refueling and travel with heavy payloads.” The fuel cells were jointly developed by GM and Honda and will be produced by the two automakers’ joint venture manufacturing partnership, Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing, LLC.
“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,” said Wabtec CEO Rafael Santana.
GM has not provided a timeline as to when its battery and fuel cell tech for locomotives will be market ready. Wabtec previously developed a battery-powered long haul train prototype of its own called the FLXDrive, which features a 2,400 kWh lithium-ion battery pack (or 2.4 mWh) and a top speed of 75 mph. The electric train underwent a successful test in a hilly part of California last year, where it delivered an 11 percent average reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for an entire train over a 350 mile route.