Solar powered street cleaning vehicles have recently begun to appear on the streets of Pyongyang, photos shared with NK News on Saturday show.
The emergence of the small and multi-colored vehicles, which feature a small roof that doubles as a solar panel, comes amid a broader push by the fuel-poor country to maximize the use of solar energy throughout the country.
“I only saw them for the first time yesterday, although they can of course have been around for longer,” said a source in Pyongyang, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of speaking to foreign media.
“All three of them in the Kim Il Sung square area, seemingly designed for sweeping the streets – but it was difficult to tell as the streets I saw them on were already clean,” the source added.
The female workers driving the vehicles were spotted wearing the same uniforms as those tasked with normally sweeping streets by hand, the source added.
“Given the low speed at which they were driving and that they were in the middle of the street, one of them going against traffic, safety could possibly be an issue.”
The photos of the vehicles appear to show specially adapted electronic bicycles that have been fitted with solar panels and batteries to save charge.
While sources in the North Korean capital were unsure about when they first appeared, solar-powered street cleaners were featured in a report by the pro-Pyongyang Choson Sinbo outlet in September.
“[They are] using electric bicycles,” Choson Sinbo reported. “The cleaning equipment is in front of the electric bicycle and the solar panel is installed like the format of screen fence on the rear seat.”
The cleaners reportedly run at between 3.7 and 4.3 miles per hour and can be used for four hours continuously.
“All operations run with the little amount of power consumption which is around 300 watts, and the energy is 100 percent charged by sunlight,” Choson Sinbo added.
The solar-power street cleaner won the first prize at the Pyongyang city’s exhibition of utensils, tools, finishing building materials and sci-tech achievements held this August.
However, it is unclear to what extent the vehicles can clean the streets, and their small size suggests that cleaning Pyongyang’s wide boulevards could take significant back-and-forth effort.
Imported electronic bicycles have been trending in North Korea for at least two years now, and the proliferation of solar power has helped facilitate improved both the government and private citizens to have better access to electricity in cities across the country.
North Korean state media said in May that natural energy sources were helping the country become more self-sufficient.
“Numerous factories, enterprises and institutions in the DPRK generate electricity by solar and wind power, in an effort to implement the WPK’s policy to ease the strain on electric supply by making proactive use of natural energy,” a Naenara article dated 11th May said.
Additional reporting: Dagyum Ji
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Main picture: NK News
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