On Tuesday June 15th 2021, GM and Wabtec announced their partnership to take the Locomotive, the backbone of America and the world for moving freight into the 21st century with the FLXdrive Locomotive and what the future holds.
The rail industry for over a century has depended on the carbon heavy diesel technology to serve companies in delivering products all over North America and the World. In the last few decades, Locomotive's have been moving from pure diesel to an electric driven powertrain using diesel generators to provide electricity to the powertrain in moving freight.
Customers have more and more asked for green Locomotive solutions that replaced the use of Diesel with an alternative solution. Today Wabtec is pleased to introduce the battery electric FLXdrive Locomotive. This is the worlds first 100% Ultium battery powered locomotive that has proven to slash carbon emissions by 30% when operating at 6 MWh.
Wabtec took the time in 2020 to look at what GM had built so far with their Ultium Battery cells and the Hydrotec fuel cell systems. With this they built the FLXdrive Locomotive, a pure Ultium battery pack Locomotive to work with Diesel Hybrid Locomotives in testing and came away with amazing noticeable results.
The Ultium based heavy-haul freight locomotive uses 18,000 Ultium cells in the FLXdrive locomotive. This locomotive in a traditional heavy-haul train with diesel locomotives proved to reduce fuel consumption by 11% and greenhouse gas emissions by 30% resulting in a reduction of 6,200 gallons of diesel fuel saves and a reduction of 69 tons of CO2 not created. This pilot was over a three-month period with BNSF railways covering 13,320 miles of hilly terrain in Dan Joaguin Valley, California. This is an area that is classified as a non-attainment area, where the air quality is worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
The 430,000 pound FLXdrive locomotive was charged overnight in the railyard and then with connection to the Diesel Hybrid Locomotives and via regenerative braking was able to optimize battery pack levels throughout the day and still have deep reserves to add additional torque / power when needed in moving freight especially up hills at a much faster rate with an average train length of 1 mile hauling several thousand tons of freight.
FLXdrive also introduced Wabtec's next generation of Trip Optimizer system, an A.I. based intelligent cruise control system programmed to respond to every twist and grade of the track to optimize the most energy-efficient way in moving freight as fast as possible.
This technology would not have been possible without the advanced R&D gm had done with BEVs and is coming in the all new Hummer line and future products from gm.
Wabtec has now moved forward with moving into production the FLXdrive locomotive a second generation of the FLXdrive which will also have options for battery packs that have more than 6 MWhs in size. Yet Wabtec is not stopping there, customers across North America from both Locomotive companies such as BNSF here and in other places like Europe have asked for a way to replace the diesel generation component and with that is where gm's HYDROTEC fuel cell technology comes into play which was shown as a successful options for the military in advanced high power, high speed auto's.
Wabtec has two sides of their business, first building and selling new locomotives the second is the repowering of existing locomotives. This second business stream is where Wabtec believes gm's HYDROTEC technology will help them in having a very clear path for the 21st century as they repower existing locomotives with Ultium batteries and Hydrogen generators using HYDROTEC fuel cells.
gm has a very large carbon footprint as does the whole auto industry in how they move new auto's from manufacturing to sales via rail transport with the last mile usually on a semi truck. As such, the ability to improve air quality while reducing greenhouse gas emissions comes via this very important business of repowering existing locomotives and Wabtec's vision for the rail industry see's gm and Wabtec playing a leading role in the clean energy economy and carbon reduced emissions globally by up to 300 tons per year.