Indian Railways is putting solar panels on trains

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:



7 Comments on “Indian Railways is putting solar panels on trains”

  1. Jack Parry January 30, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

    Hello Jeremy. Only one problem with the Indian Railways scheme – the roofs often have as many travellers on them as are inside the carriages!

    • Jeremy Williams January 31, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

      Yeah, that’s not going to be good for the solar panels… Fortunately the health and safety people put a stop to that a few years ago, or at least they tried. Rightly so, too. I remember reading that a dozen people used to die every day on the Mumbai commuter trains, which is extraordinary.

  2. marut2017 February 12, 2017 at 8:54 am #

    oh yes jeremy now in india we have a kind of political willpower committed to work for the infrastructure of india,soon many more things will appear on the ground that the world will emulate to ponder their profitability in the pretext of their on lands,thanks for finding the mettle in india

    • Jeremy Williams February 12, 2017 at 10:08 am #

      I suspect other people will pick up on this idea, so good work India Railways for pioneering it.

  3. href=""web development|Dc24Dev|web design} February 14, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    A fairly awesome envision of the Lenfest Plaza! Isn’t it

  4. Joe Owens March 27, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

    Sure, the cost saving son just the lights and interior climate control will not compare to being able to chew into the operational cost, but decision makers should understand you must trim costs wherever you can while making an impact on the environment. I don’t know much about the solar panels and product industries in India and China, but it seems likely their could be a manufacturing boost associated.


  1. Transport innovation of the week: solar trains | Make Wealth History - March 27, 2017

    […] and Belgium has a solar tunnel that feeds into the network. Indian railways are pioneering solar power to run train interiors. So far I’m not aware of anyone directly powering the trains with solar power, but […]

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