You are here

Indian Rail Company start work on solar train carriage project

The Integral Coach Factory is starting up a project with IIT Madras to design coaches with lighting and air conditioning powered by solar power.

Diesel operated train on Indian Railway
ICF wants to curb Indian Railway's growing reliance on diesel to supply the demand for more air condition coaches

An Indian train firm has announced the start of a project with an Indian energy firm to design new solar powered coaches.

The Integral Coach Factory (ICF), a production unit of Indian Railways, is working with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras to develop solar powered carriages to curb their dependence on fossil fuels and the power grid. With Indian Railways expecting a higher demand for air conditioned coaches, it is leading to higher spending on diesel, which ICF is hoping this new project will avoid.

At present, there are two forms of air conditioning sources for trains. Power cars – which are attached to the Shatabdi Express, Duronto and double decker trains – run on diesel. AC coaches, used in first class travel to capital cities, use the momentum from the speed of the train and thus are self-generating. The latter has had its faults, including problems with battery system that is charged by the self-generators fixed near the end of the wheels of each coach.

A senior ICF official discussed the deal's origins and continuation. He said "We have asked IIT Madras to find ways to tap solar power and use it for interior lighting and air conditioning. A memorandum of understanding 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."

The official also discussed where the project could lead to in terms the future of carriage train travel. He said ''If the project is successful, the railways may be able to dispense with power cars. We are yet to know if power cars can be eliminated because we have to find out the extent of power that can be drawn from solar panels and how much of that can be stored effectively. These issues will be looked at by the developers."

This is another effort for India to reduce its reliance on using its power grid, an effort Robin Yapp discussed in a blog written in 2012.