India Launches First ‘Solar Powered’ Railway Coach
Indian Railways has officially launched what has been dubbed its first ‘solar powered’ train, which it hopes will save around 21,000 litres of diesel per year.
In fact the train still uses diesel for propulsion, but utilises solar for on-board systems.
The rail network, the largest in Asia, transports an estimated 13 million passengers per day on 11,000 trains, requiring a huge amount of diesel to do so. In 2015, the company spent US$2.5 billion on fuel for its fleet. It has now embarked on a project aiming to reduce fuel consumption, partly by employing more solar energy. Altogether, Indian Railways hopes to save approximately US$6.31 billion dollars on fuel over the next 10 years.
The new DEMU (Diesel Electric Multiple Unit) train’s roof was kitted out with 16 solar panels by Jakson Engineers Limited, which are expected to generate 7,200 KW per year, and also includes battery systems to allow solar energy to be stored on board. The batteries will also gather data for research aimed at fine-tuning future additions to the solar-powered fleet.
While a diesel locomotive will still be used to pull the train, the solar power provided by the rooftop panels will supply lighting, fans, display panels and other electrical customer conveniences. According to an official statement, a six-coach DEMU will save around 21,000 litres of diesel per year, and each coach will help offset 9 tonnes of carbon emissions.
The project to fit the solar power system to the train was awarded to Jakson Engineering by the IROAF (Indian Railways Organisation for Alternate Fuels), a group within Indian Railways which works on promoting biodiesel and other green alternative fuels for the country’s railways.
Finding ways to de-carbonise the transportation sector is crucial to meeting Paris Climate Change Agreement targets. In a country of India’s size electrifying the entire rail network is a massive undertaking, so schemes such as this are vital in reducing the system’s carbon footprint.