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Is this a sneak peek at the long-awaited Kia ute? Kia RHGV previews go-anywhere hydrogen-powered 4x4 pick-up

The Kia RHGV looks tough and goes anywhere, but how close is it to the long-awaited ute from the Korean brand?

Kia has been notoriously quiet in the last year or so on the idea of its long-awaited pick-up truck, but in a sneaky footnote in Hyundai Group’s Hydrogen Vision 2040 presentation was our latest hint at how tough it could be.

Dubbed the RHGV – for Rescue Hydrogen Generator Vehicle, the Kia-branded concept builds on the previous military transport concepts the brand has shown in the past, but this time as a hydrogen-powered version which carries its own hydrogen generator.

In a teaser video, the brand shows a rendered version of the RHGV reaching remote locations in extreme weather and terrain conditions in order to charge stranded electric vehicles or power remote habitations.

The 'Powered by Kia' ute concept imagines a tray-mounted fuel cell system charging up stranded EVs. The 'Powered by Kia' ute concept imagines a tray-mounted fuel cell system charging up stranded EVs.

Hyundai Group says the RHGV offers both single-phase 220V and three-phase 380V power supply options via its tray-mounted fuel-cell stacks. It forms part of a concept vehicle onslaught that the brand revealed alongside its vision to build a “hydrogen society” by 2040.

The underpinnings of the RHGV were shown at a defence expo in 2021, sporting a 168kW diesel engine, an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission and off-road 4x4 hardware. Its platform was shown to be a modular unit capable of supporting multiple layouts.

The RHGV is the first we’ve seen of the ladder-chassis-based truck since. The Hyundai Group's R&D boss, Albert Beirmann explained at the reveal of the its e-GMP electric underpinnings in late 2020 that hydrogen was a far better bet for the brand’s commercial offerings than battery-electric.

“If you’re talking about commercial vehicles, pick-up trucks, we are the largest seller of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles worldwide. That is perhaps a better solution. We are working on it. You will see our solution soon,” he said.

The question is, is the RHGV a version of the consumer-facing solution? Or just a spin-off of a military- and emergency-services-only vehicle? Time will tell, as the brand plans to reveal much more in 2023, at which point its next-generation fuel-cell systems are set to debut.

The RGHV is just one in a slew of hydrogen-powered concepts shown by the Hyundai Group. The RGHV is just one in a slew of hydrogen-powered concepts shown by the Hyundai Group.

A smaller but more affordable 100kW output unit will debut in the next-generation Nexo and a fuel-cell version of the Staria people mover, while the Hyundai Group also promised fuel-cell vehicles from both Kia and Genesis before 2025.

We hope we see the ute before then, as at one point the the company has told us it had a target window of 2023. If so, it could be powered by the larger stack, which produces 200kW and is designed for commercial applications.

Stay tuned as we watch Hyundai Group’s next-gen fuel cell developments toward 2023.