On the Right Track

Indian Railways is decreasing their diesel consumption by rolling out a Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) train with a solar-paneled roof. The panels will produce the power required by the fans, lights, and electronic display systems in passenger coaches. Any surplus energy can be stored in an onboard battery.

The train debuted in New Delhi, which is one of the most polluted cities in the world, on July 14, and the company plans to retrofit solar panels onto 24 more trains in the near future.

Indian Railways estimates that attaching solar panels to six coaches on a train could save as much as 21,000 liters of diesel every year. Not only would that be environmentally beneficial, it would also be economically wise.

Indian Railways spends a significant amount of money on diesel every year, with the cost of powering the railway reaching Rs16,395 crore ($2.5 billion) in 2015. By using the solar technology, the company believes it can save Rs41,000 crore ($6.31 billion) over the next 10 years.

A Worldwide Effect

The solar train initiative is symptomatic of two wider trends: India's bid to become a greener nation and a worldwide stress on developing cleaner transportation.

India hopes to produce 60 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027, and to that end, the nation has launched a series of projects to decrease its carbon footprint. India Coal, which produces 82 percent of the country's coal, has closed 37 mines; the government has announced a plan to use only electric cars by 2030; and a 10 km2 (3.86 m2) solar power plant in Tamil Nadu broke the record for the largest solar farm in the world.

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The trains are also one example of many ingenious methods engineers and scientists are using to decrease emissions in the transportation sector, which accounts for 14 percent of worldwide emissions.

In 2017 alone, we have seen a zero-emissions plane capable of flying 965 kilometers (600 miles) on a single charge, a pavement in London that produces energy from footsteps, and a boat that is capable of energy self-sufficiency by deriving its power from a combination of solar, wind, and hydrogen pulled from sea water.

A combination of individual innovations — such as trains that utilize solar energy — and national changes in energy policy will prove invaluable in our fight against global warming. Decreasing emissions worldwide is the goal, and while each of these initiatives may only be a drop in the ocean, when combined, they can make a world of difference.

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