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Wabtec signs MOUs with CMU, Genesee & Wyoming to decarbonize freight rail & improve safety; battery and fuel cell locomotives

Wabtec, a leading global provider of equipment, systems, digital solutions and value-added services for the freight and transit rail industries, as well as the mining, marine and industrial markets, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) which formalizes their joint aim to create technologies that will decarbonize freight rail transport, improve freight safety, and generate greater rail network utilization.

In addition, Wabtec announced an MOU with Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W), the largest owner of short line and regional freight railroads, to pursue zero-emission battery and hydrogen freight strategies, as well as increase rail utilization across North America.

The announcements, which are based on a joint vision of building a more sustainable freight transportation network, were made during a ceremonial gathering on Carnegie Mellon’s campus. This vision consists of two parts.

One consists of powering locomotive fleets with alternative energy sources, such as batteries, and eventually, hydrogen fuel cells for a zero-emissions freight rail network pilot. The second focuses on advancements to current signaling systems and digital technologies to increase rail network capacity, utilization and safety across the US.

To accelerate this effort, Carnegie Mellon University, Genesee & Wyoming and Wabtec aspire to create the Freight Rail Innovation Institute—a first-of-its-kind effort to create zero-emission locomotives, develop technology that increases freight rail utilization and improve safety by 50%, and create 250,000 jobs by 2030.

To maximize utilization across the nation’s mainline rail network, which is the cleanest, safest and most efficient way to move goods over land, Carnegie Mellon University will play a leading role in developing the engineering technologies that bring together the data, logistics and intelligence needed to optimize rail operations, while reducing emissions.

The time is right to accelerate the application of emerging technologies to transform the rail industry. Advances in digital technologies and artificial intelligence will revolutionize freight rail by driving dramatic improvements in safety and network capacity, while simultaneously increasing efficiency across the nation’s supply chain. As these emerging technologies converge with clean energy breakthroughs, we also see a tremendous opportunity to enable the decarbonization of freight rail. CMU looks forward to bringing our research capabilities and our proven track record of success with industry partners to this important effort.

—Farnam Jahanian, President of Carnegie Mellon University

G&W’s Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad will pilot technologies developed by the Freight Rail Innovation Institute, including a zero-emissions battery and hydrogen-powered train that is planned for revenue operation over 200 miles of track between Pittsburgh and Buffalo, NY within the next three years.

“While already the most environmentally friendly mode of surface transportation, freight railroads have a critical role to play in our nation’s decarbonization strategy. Through this partnership, we plan to transform the next generation of freight rail transportation by adopting advanced technologies that can eliminate emissions and increase rail utilization without requiring significant new rail infrastructure. The end result will be a cleaner environment, more competitive transportation for our nation’s industrial producers, and a freight rail system that remains the most efficient in the world.

—Jack Hellmann, CEO of G&W

The gathering also featured the inaugural display of Wabtec’s FLXdrive, the world’s first heavy-haul battery-electric locomotive. Earlier this year, the FLXdrive demonstrated its capabilities in revenue operations during a three-month pilot in California, covering more than 13,000 miles of track. (Earlier post.)


The 2.4 MWh FLXdrive successfully reduced the overall fuel consumption by more than 11% across the entire locomotive consist—saving more than 6,200 gallons of diesel fuel and reducing approximately 69 tons of CO2 emissions.


The second generation of the FLXdrive locomotive, which is in development and will operate with more than 7 MWh capacity, will reduce fuel consumption by up to 30% across the train. Looking to the future, Wabtec will accelerate the shift to alternative clean energy solutions, through zero-emission hydrogen-powered locomotives.

This partnership with Carnegie Mellon University and Genesee & Wyoming further strengthens our efforts to decarbonize global rail transportation and will significantly increase freight rail utilization, efficiency, and safety throughout the rail network. The transportation sector is at a critical inflection point. With technologies providing increased battery and hydrogen power capacity, we have the potential to eliminate up to 120 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year in North America.

—Rafael Santana, President and CEO of Wabtec


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