India launches first solar-panelled train in bid to cut down diesel use

Trains expected to save 21,000 litres of diesel a year

India has launched its first solar-powered train, which it is hoped will save around 21,000 litres of diesel a year, as the government attempts to make the country’s vast rail network more environmentally friendly.The new 1,600 horsepower Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains are fitted with 16 solar panels on each carriage as well as battery back-ups, UNTV News and Rescue reports.

The first train, which is pulled by a diesel-powered locomotive, has been launched on New Delhi’s suburban commuter railway system, with the routes for the rest of the new trains to be decided soon.The 7,200kw of energy created each year by the solar panels will be used to power internal lights, fans and other electrical systems on the train coaches.

Each solar-panelled coach will reportedly offset carbon emissions by nine tonnes a year, which is expected to save around 21,000 litres of diesel.Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu told The Hindu the trains are a “path-breaking leap” towards the goal of making India’s trains more environmentally friendly. The department of railways is also increasing its use of alternative energy sources as part of its commitment to using cleaner fuels, he added.

The solar panels last for up to 25 years and will be inspected regularly.“It is not an easy task to fit solar panels on the roof of train coaches that run at a speed of 80km per hour,” Sundeep Gupta, vice chairman and managing director of Jackson Engineers, which worked on the project, told Business Standard. “Our engineering skills were put to a real test during the execution of this rooftop solar project for Indian Railways.”