Byron Bay Railroad Company World First Solar Train

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  • 2018

  • Product Design
    Automotive and Transport

Designed By:

  • Byron Bay Railroad Company
  • Lithgow Railway Workshop Elmofo
  • Nickel Energy

Commissioned By:

Byron Bay Railroad Company

Lithgow Railway Workshop Elmofo

Nickel Energy

Designed In:

Australia

Byron Bay Railroad Company has restored and converted a sixty-eight year old diesel train to become the world's first solar powered train. The innovation, achieved with no government funding or support, shines a 4.6 billion year old light on modern travel.


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  • The design brief was to modify heritage carriages to operate by electric traction supplied from solar PV panels and batteries rather than diesel engines, without substantially altering the heritage value of the carriages. The design challenge was doing something that had never been before. Carts and trolleys have run on solar power but never a full size train. Further, working with a nearly seventy year old train as opposed to custom designing a solar train brought significant design hurdles. A global search resulted in commissioning of new products required and purchase of brand new to market (and relatively untested) components.

  • The underfloor electric drive skid was designed as minimally invasive and modular with state of the art components mounted in one area as a complete preassembled drive package which fitted into the same bolt holes that secured the removed diesel engine. This made the changeover from diesel to electric traction fast, simple and without the need for costly structural modifications to the train. New generation flexible thin film solar panels were fitted to the train roof to minimise the visual impact on the heritage train. An additional solar array on the station roof ensures the train is net carbon positive.

  • The train is quiet and has no carbon emissions, meaning less impact upon neighbours and no broader environmental impact. We use 1/3 of the energy we generate. The remaining 2/3 we export to the grid. Power from the sun is free and sustainable, so we put that saving into reduced ticket pricing ($3.00 per adult) to make our service accessible. We carried our 10,000th passenger on day nineteen. The conversion has generated a strong international following. Since launching three months ago we talk to people all over the world about how our technology may be applied to their unique circumstances.

  • The clean green technology applied to a charming heritage train has been well received by a community which values repurposing and has a Council with aspirations of zero net emissions. The engineering design resulted in functionality and sustainability that both performed better than expected. As far as trains go it is easy to drive and with electric traction there are fewer parts to maintain and service than a diesel engine. Electric drives are much quieter than other propulsion sources. Power comes directly from the sun. The project produces and exports to the grid more solar electricity than it consumes by a significant margin. There are no carbon emissions. At $500,000.00 the conversion represents 1/9 of the cost of providing the train and will therefore provide a ROI. There are potential purchasers of the technology. The innovation is a new original design. There are no known examples of this technology ever having been successfully applied to a full size train anywhere in the world before. Whilst the technology is complex, solar power can be seen and felt. Our innovation advances the user experience as riding on a train powered by the sun proves that it is possible.