Wabtec (NYSE: WAB) and General Motors (NYSE: GM) are collaborating on bringing battery and fuel cell technology to the freight locomotive.

The two will seek to develop and commercialize GM’s Ultium battery technology and HYDROTEC hydrogen fuel cell systems for Wabtec locomotives. The collaboration consists of a nonbinding memorandum of understanding, in which Wabtec brings the expertise in energy management and systems optimization, while GM brings the advanced technology it has been developing for batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, the companies said.

“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 President and CEO Rafael Santana said in a Tuesday release. 

Last month, Wabtec released the results of a pilot program that it conducted with BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B) and the San Joaquin Pollution Control District, in which Wabtec tested its FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive. Wabtec determined that the heavy-haul freight locomotive could help reduce a train’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% when operating at 6 MWh.

The company plans to commercialize the second-generation FLXdrive fleet within the next few years.

Meanwhile, GM is constructing battery cell plants in Ohio and Tennessee through its joint venture with LG Energy Solution. And its HYDROTEC fuel cell systems are being assembled by Brownstown, Michigan-based Fuel Cell Systems Manufacturing, itself a joint venture between General Motors and Honda.

In January, GM said it would be collaborating with Navistar and J.B. Hunt Transport to develop long-haul fuel cell electric trucks into production by 2024.

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

Other rail companies are also looking into hydrogen technology. Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) said last December that it is starting a pilot project to develop a hydrogen-powered locomotive.

Subscribe to FreightWaves’ e-newsletters and get the latest insights on freight right in your inbox.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Related links:

Wabtec: Battery-electric locomotive reduces fuel use by 11%

Drilling Deep: Battery technology racing ahead; so is the price of diesel

NZCS chat recap: Railroads on track for zero-emission future

NZCS chat recap: Driving down the cost of hydrogen

Canadian Pacific launches hydrogen-powered locomotive project