All aboard the Solar Express!

Far from the North Pole, the world’s first fully solar train recently hit the tracks in Australia.

Key Points

  • The world’s first fully solar train hit the tracks this year.
  • Maybe by next year, the Polar Express could run on solar too.
  • Hopefully, 2018 will bring advancements in energy storage to make it happen. 

The Polar Express is great and all, with its magical trip to the North Pole, hot chocolate and enchanting nudge to believe in the season.

But it could use an upgrade.

The original coal-powered train could maybe one day run on solar power.

Far from the North Pole, the world’s first fully solar train recently hit the tracks in Australia. The train in Byron Bay has curved solar panels on its roof. It also generates electricity when it brakes and can plug in at the train station to get energy from the station’s solar panels. And if no solar power is available, it can pull power from the grid.

The project was completed without government support or funding. A nonprofit group spearheaded the solar train project using volunteers to restore a vintage train. Tickets to ride are an affordable $3 a trip.

The solar train works well for the sunny beach town’s 2-mile route where the sun almost always shines, the tracks are flat and the train cars are made of lightweight aluminum.

The Polar Express — with its heavy loads of Christmas toys, treacherous mountain passes, and dusk-to-dawn schedule — will certainly need to innovate to make solar power work for it.

But with advancements in energy-storage solutions, maybe the Polar Express will be able to have a little fun in the sun.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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