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Diesel-Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) a diesel engine drives an electrical generator or an alternator which produces electrical energy. The generated current is then fed to electric traction motors on the wheels or bogies in the same way as a conventional diesel electric locomotive.

In modern DEMUs, such as the Bombardier Voyager family, each car is entirely self-contained and has its own engine, generator and electric motors. In older designs, such as the British Rail Class 207, some cars within the consist may be entirely unpowered or only feature electric motors, obtaining electrical current from other cars in the consist which have a generator and engine.