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GM Will Use Its Battery and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology to Modernize Trains

GM will use its decades of hi-tech research to help transform rail lines and make them greener.


General Motors is expanding its use of Ultium batteries as well as its HYDROTEC Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology to help make the rail industry greener. GM will work with a company called Wabtec to apply the two hi-tech advancements to powering locomotives. Up Until now, GM has kept the Ultium battery technology for its vehicles like the 2022 GMC HUMMER.

Years of Research

GM has used the HYDROTEC Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology sporadically but has been held back by the lack of hydrogen fuel infrastructure. GM has done extensive research and development of the HYDROTEC technology for the defense department. We reported years ago on the development of the Army truck concept Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 that was hydrogen-powered. Now it appears that GM will be able to profit on a large scale from its decades of research and make the rail industry greener at the same time.

“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-percent battery powered locomotive, has proven its potential to slash carbon emissions by up to 30 percent 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.”

Wabtec and GM signed a deal to work on a zero-emissions future in transportation. Wabtec will use its expertise in the rail industry to try and determine how GM’s technologies can be used to power heavy haul locomotives.

Reducing Carbon Emissions

“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,” said Mark Reuss, GM president. “Wabtec’s decision to deploy GM’s Ultium battery and HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell systems further validates our advanced technology and demonstrates its versatility.”

Profit Can Be Re-Invested in GM

GM’s Ultium battery technology can be reconfigured to power vehicles of different shapes and sizes, including huge locomotive engines. If GM can profit from selling the technology to other industries, it helps the company’s bottom line.

For as long as I can remember, GM has been diligently developing hydrogen-powered vehicles. Nearly every time I visited the Milford Proving Grounds, in Michigan, there were mules of different shapes and sizes running the test tracks powered by hydrogen fuel cells. GM used its research to develop HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell power cubes that are compact and can be used in a wide range of vehicles, including locomotives. The HYDROTEC fuel cell systems will be assembled by a joint venture between General Motors and Honda in Brownstown, Michigan.

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John Goreham    June 16, 2021 - 11:15AM

Boy, I'd love to see the dirty Amtrak/MBTA commuter rail line that pollutes its way all over Metro Boston move away from burning diesel in its trains (which run empty most of the time). I can smell the train from my house.