A new Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) train was officially entered into service by India's Minister of Railways Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu on July 14. The train left Safdarjung Station in south Delhi pulling six carriages topped with PV panels to meet the needs of its electrical systems with clean energy.

The project is part of an effort by Indian Railways to reduce the carbon footprint of its diesel-reliant train network, a plan that includes the building of five 1,000 MW solar plants over the next 5 years, as well as making use of bio fuels and wind energy, installing bio-toilets, and recycling water.

Multiple carriages with PV panels on the 1,600 hp DEMU train's roof soak up the Indian sunshine during transit. This energy juices up 120 Ah battery packs to take the strain off the diesel part of the locomotive's powertrain by serving the electrical needs of the train, such as lighting, door operation, passenger information and so on. Such systems would normally require a diesel-driven generator for power.

Each coach rocks 16 photovoltaic panels rated at 300 W per panel, with the system having the potential to develop up to 20 kWh of energy per day. Storing unused energy in the battery banks should also mean that the train's electrical systems can operate at night without needing diesel intervention. It's reckoned that adding solar panels to a six coach DEMU train could save Indian Railways around 21,000 liters of diesel per year, while reducing the carbon signature of each coach by 9 tonnes per annum.

The trained launched last week may be the first panel-topped train to enter service, but it won't be the last – the Ministry for Railways has said that 24 more coaches are scheduled to be fitted with PV panels over the next 6 months.

You can see the launch of the PV-packed DEMU train in the video below.

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