I think we can all agree that riding the train is objectively bad. But, when you’re riding the world’s only 100% solar-powered train that hasn’t missed a scheduled service in over a year, that’s maybe a pretty awesome experience. The Byron Bay Railroad Company operates a 100-seat vintage train on a short 6-kilometer route that basically goes from a town and down to a resort and beach, and then back. A couple of years ago the town decided to invest in converting the train to pure EV, powered by the sun. Mega!
Everything about riding a big old diesel train is pretty terrible. It’s loud, obnoxious, and pollutes like crazy. By running this train on pure sol electric, it has been made quiet and absolutely carbon negative. In fact, the solar power the train company produces exceeds what it needs by about 60,000 kWh.
Unlike that “solar car” this train is actually 100% powered by the sun 100% of the time. How does it work?
So, it’s pretty obvious that the small curved solar panels on the roof of the train are not the only thing producing the power. The efficiency of solar is nice, but not nearly that good. The way this works is through a huge solar array on the roof of the train station charges up a rack of stationary batteries. When the train is parked at the station unloading and loading back up again, a couple of fast charge leads are plugged in to the mobile batteries onboard the train.
It’s little projects like this that prove the future of non-carbon transportation is possible. Stuff like this needs to exist in order to make bigger innovations happen. Will all diesel trains one day be converted to fully solar powered? Shit, I hope so.