Published on February 6th, 2013 | by Christopher DeMorro
Weird Ride Wednesday: The Wood-Powered Trucks Of North Korea
It isn’t easy running a tyrannical dictatorship these days. Just ask North Korea, a country with so many internal and external sanctions that they don’t even have even oil to run the few vehicles they’ve got. That led the resourceful North Koreans to power their vehicles using gasifiers, which produce immense heat and break down biomatter, like wood, into a usable fuel. North Korea is just crawling with these mostly-wood-powered pickups and equipment haulers.
For decades, North Korea relied heavily on the USSR, China, and Iran to keep the cheap oil flowing. However, the USSR no longer exists, China seems increasingly displeased with North Korea’s behavior, and new sanctions have put the squeeze on Iranian crude. This has meant that many North Koreans must improvise when it comes to getting their old-school trucks moving. Wood is one of the few resources available in abundance in North Korea, and so it wasn’t long before the resourceful citizens (inspired by Dear Leader, of course) figured out that gasification was their only real solution.
Gasification has been around for a long, long time, first gaining widespread use after World War II. There are still people out there (and we do mean “out there”) who use gasifiers to power their rides, though it is far from an ideal situation as the burner must be feed a steady diet of wood in order to operate. They’re also loud, unreliable, and inefficient, but they work most of the time, and in North Korea, that is all that really matters. They can also look really cool and steampunkish…when done right.
It seems as though gasification will remain at the fringes of society for the foreseeable future, unless some worldwide calamity depletes our oil supplies overnight. Then all those wackjobs who predicted the end of the world might have something to celebrate, though one look at North Korea is a glimpse at just what such a world might look like.