Solar cars increasingly seen in N.Korea’s Pyongsong science hub
Variants of Chinese electronic cars spotted in Pyongsong with solar panel roofs
Chinese-made cars with roof-mounted solar panels have been observed driving around North Korea’s Pyongsong scientific hub, photos seen by NK Pro show.
At least two cars were seen with solar panels affixed to their roofs in a photo taken in Pyongsong, located approximately 35km northwest of Pyongyang, this April – one of which included a sticker bearing the logo of Chinese automaker JAC.
“These cars were scattered on almost every corner in Pyongsong,” said Rowan Beard, a tour guide with the China-based Young Pioneer Tours travel agency who regularly visits the country. “I saw about 30 of them and didn’t hear an engine running like a standard motor.”
“I asked a (local) Korean if they’re completely reliable on solar and she said they also have charging stations,” he continued. “So, hybrid electric and solar.”
The April sightings of the solar-paneled cars are notable, coming just days before surprise gas fuel price hikes throughout the country and against the backdrop of a longer-term North Korean effort to use solar power for street lighting, homes, buses, and even ferries.
While one of the cars featured a sticker showing the logo of JAC, the Chinese auto manufacturer doesn’t itself appear to have any solar-powered vehicles in development.
It does, however, produce a range of electric-hybrid and pure-electric cars known as the J3, which launched in 2010, which are larger than the two cars pictured in Pyongsong and are capable of driving up to 81 miles on one battery charge.
But, notably, the car featuring the JAC sticker spotted in Pyongsong does not precisely appear to resemble the body shape of any of the Chinese JAC manufacturers’ cars, with their J2 minicar being the closest resemblance.
Instead, the types spotted bear a much closer resemblance to a 2013 update of China’s Cherry QQ minicar, a variant of which is sold in China as a popular all-electric car.
Given the much closer resemblance to the Cherry QQ, it’s possible that North Korean researchers in Pyongsong may be adapting the car’s lithium-ion battery power system to charge not only from street power supplies, but from roof-mounted solar panels.
By harnessing solar power, the recharging of the vehicles would reduce the load on North Korea’s domestic power infrastructure.
The prevalence of solar has not gone unnoticed by frequent travelers to the DPRK and North Korea watchers.
“Private use and state use of solar energy have both increased dramatically, especially outside of Pyongyang, where electricity is much less stable. Constantly decreasing costs also have definitely helped this trend,” Troy Collings, managing director of Young Pioneer Tours, told NK News in 2015.
Main picture: NK Pro
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