The most recent episode of Robert Llewellyn’s Fully Charged YouTube series focused on the fun and future-proof idea of solar-powered trains. Electricity-powered trains are front and centre at the moment, with the ongoing works to upgrade the length of the Great Western Railway line, but this episode talks of a short track that goes just a little bit further.
Based in Australia, where there is a little bit more sunshine than we have in the UK, the Byron Bay Railroad Company refurbished an old train, refitting it with batteries and solar panels and allowing the machine not only to power itself with renewable energy but also to give power back to the grid.
I love the idea and the selling points are obvious. But it does seem to come with downsides - only being available on that short stretch of track without any hills is a significant disadvantage. Also, it seemed to go very slowly. Whilst electrifying trains is a key concept of the moment, so is speeding them up.
Still, it’s great to see experimentation and proof-of-concepts like this. As Mr Llewellyn says: “Early days but clearly something that’s worth developing.”