Ford Authority

GM Ultium Battery Technology Will Power Future Locomotives


Virtually every automaker is currently focused on developing electric vehicles and batteries to power them, including Ford and its cross-town rival, General Motors. But it seems that GM Ultium battery technology won’t just be powering vehicles like the GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq – it will also be used in locomotives, thanks to a new deal between the automaker and Wabtec.

The two companies have signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding that aims to capitalize on Wabtec’s energy management and systems optimization and GM’s battery tech and HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell power cubes to power locomotives in the future. The power cubes will be assembled at GM and Honda’s joint venture Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing, LLC in Brownstown, Michigan.

“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.”

“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.”

Meanwhile, Ford is investing heavily in battery technology as well. In addition to opening its first battery research and development center, the automaker has made investments in solid-state battery manufacturer Solid Power, formed a joint-venture with battery maker SK Innovation, and is developing its next-generation of power systems dubbed IonBoost.

We’ll have more on what Ford’s competition is up to soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for ongoing Ford news coverage.


Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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  1. crabbymilton

    Time will tell if it works and is reliable. Otherwise they’ll be a lot of dead trains out there waiting for a diesel to pull it the rest of the way. Interesting that GM is partnering with their old rival since GE is now WABTEC and GM’s old locomotive division is now part of CATERPILLER.

  2. Mark B

    Sounds very interesting! I assume that the hydrogen cells will replace the diesel motor that powers the generator that creates the current for charging batteries and/or powering electric motors?

  3. Jean-Francois Rivard

    Great application. The Locomotives are already (Hybrid Diesel) electric powered, so the motors / transmissions / controllers are existing / proven / been there for over 6-7 decades. Also, with locomotives you actually want weight to help with the tractive power… On top of that it’s easier to coordinate the hydrogen infrastructure as the trains are naturally captive and highly planned.

    Combine all that with the fact that there’s plenty of space on board for batteries once you remove the huge diesel engine / generator combo, it seems like an ideal platform to rollout the technology.

    1. Stephen Ketterer

      A locomotive provides an optimal platform for electric power. Automobiles? Not so much.


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