GM partnering with Wabtec on electric freight locomotives for rail industry

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Wabtec Corp. says its FLXdrive is the world's first 100% battery-powered, heavy-haul freight locomotive.Wabtec

General Motors and Wabtec Corp. are partnering to develop and commercialize electric locomotives using the automaker's battery and fuel cell technologies.

The companies announced on Tuesday the signing of a nonbinding memorandum of understanding for GM to engineer and supply its Ultium battery and Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell systems for Wabtec freight locomotives.

"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 President Mark Reuss said in a statement.

Implementation of the systems for the rail industry would expand GM's customer base for the emerging technologies, while giving Pittsburgh-based Wabtec a supplier for battery and fuel cells for electric locomotives.

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Wabtec has developed and tested a battery-electric locomotive called FLXdrive, which is powered by about 18,000 battery cells. The company says the prototype was part of a $22.6 million grant from the California Air Resource Board awarded to Wabtec, BNSF Railway and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. 

The companies declined to release financial terms of the agreement or a potential time frame for commercialization of a battery or fuel cell-powered locomotive.