Trains are an interesting and environmentally-friendly way to travel. In hot and crowded countries like India, however, comfort might be a poor adjective to describe the experience of the average train passenger. But Indian Railways, a government owned and operated rail network, recently announced that it would be tapping the power of the sun to make traveling in its coach cars a more palatable experience. A partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology will allow the installation of solar harvesting equipment that will supply enough electricity for on-board air conditioning, as well as more efficient internal lighting.
India is a hot and crowded country, and its railway cars are no exception. According to the Times of India, the railways anticipate a huge demand for air conditioned coaches in the coming years (ahem, climate change) and diesel generators leave much to be desired, especially in the way of price.
“We have asked IIT Madras to find ways to tap solar power and use it for interior lighting and air conditioning. An MoU was signed a month ago. We have started preliminary discussions with professors to work out different modalities to develop a feasible model to use solar power in running trains,” a senior Integral Coach Factory official told the Times.
While it seems like a brilliant idea, trains and solar power aren’t something we’ve seen successfully combined that often. We’ve seen solar-powered train stations and even solar panels on train bridges, but on the train itself? If IIT is able to pull it off, it will be a huge leap forward for the rail industry.
“The concept of solar-powered air conditioners will be extremely beneficial to the train industry. Larger railways that take passengers through multiple climates will benefit the most from this technology. There have been many instances of current air conditioning methods failing, sometimes when they are in tortuous heat.