A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the possibilities of self-charging solar vehicles, and just how many solar panels you can stick on a car. Here’s a related concept for this edition of ‘transport innovation of the week‘. Indian Railways has been exploring a variety of ways of saving energy and reducing emissions, and has recently been trialing solar panels on its trains.
The plan is not to run the train itself on solar power, but to provide energy for the interior of the coaches. The current trial has 12 panels on each coach, enough to run the lights and fans. If successful, future trials will power the AC units as well, as there’s room for 6 more panels on each roof.
The interiors would normally run off diesel, and over a year the solar train will save 90,000 litres of fuel and 200 tonnes of CO2. Relative to the power needed to move the whole train, this is small. But if you multiply the savings across India’s vast rail network then it soon adds up, keeping down costs and emissions.
When I walk into town I cross a footbridge over the tracks in Luton, and as the trains pass underneath I find myself asking why there aren’t solar panels on them too. Indian Railways say there’s 40 square metres of space on one of their train roofs. Might as well put it good use, even if our own sunshine quotient doesn’t match India’s.
You can do the same thing with buses of course. Here are some in China: