Technology 3 min read

India's Solar-Powered, Hybrid DEMU Trains Save Tons on Diesel

Joymsk140 /

Joymsk140 /

India’s first train running on alternative fuel has made its inaugural trip. The hybrid diesel-electric train is partly solar-powered, and it aims to reduce carbon emissions.

After the U.S. (250,000 km), China (100,000 km) and Russia (85,000 km), India has the fourth largest rail network in the world with 65,000 km of track laid.

As the most efficient and economic mode of transportation in the country, Indian trains carry billions of passengers and millions of tons of goods every year.

India rolls out its first solar-powered train.Click To Tweet

In 2013, it’s estimated that 8 bn people and 1.1 m tonnes of freight were carried by railroads in India.

Making Indian DEMU Trains More Environment-Friendly

India has plans to not only extend its railroad network but also to reduce the carbon-footprint of its trains in the face of high costs of fossil fuels in both money and environmental impact.

The Indian Ministry of Railways has been exploring many paths of cheaper and cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels and has already conducted natural gas and biodiesel trials.

Here’s a sneak peek (not in English).

A portion of trains in the Indian capital, Delhi, are already using CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), to reduce fuel consumption and offset CO2 emissions.

But it’s sunlight power that seems to be the most promising, as using solar trains only would reduce fuel consumption by up to 90,000 liters per year. What’s more, carbon emissions would be reduced by 200 tonnes per year.

As railroads electrification projects across the country are behind schedule, the Indian Government launching the first hybrid train also alleviates those issues.

India’s First Solar-Powered DEMU Train Makes its Maiden Trip

India is one of the world’s top GHG (greenhouse gas) emitters, coming third with 7% of the global carbon dioxide footprint–behind China (30%) and the U.S. (15%)–and trains are accountable for a substantial part of that number.

Besides implementing environmentally-wise practices in trains, such as water recycling, waste disposal and bio-toilets, Indian railroads will need more drastic measures.

Last Friday, India unveiled its first solar-powered train in the suburbs of New Delhi. The Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit (DEMU) 6 coach train is not fully solar-powered as it still will be pulled by a diesel locomotive.

But the 16 solar panels on each carriage will harvest sunlight during the day time to power other systems, such as the train’s display unit, lights, air conditioners, and fans. A backup battery allows the train to stay operational for at least 72 hours.

Until the train becomes 100% green, this is a great start, as it could already save up to 21,000 liters of fuel per year, and cut CO2 emissions by 9 tonnes per coach per year.

Built locally under the “Make in India” campaign, DEMU train would help India meet its renewed commitments of Paris Agreement, ever more critical as the U.S. has pulled out.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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