With more electric vehicles on the road, EV fires have received a lot of attention in the news. High profile blazes like damaged battery packs spontaneously catching fire in the wake of Hurricane Ian and an entire cargo ship of EVs going up in flames have prompted one U.K. company to create a fire truck specifically designed to fight EV fires.
York-based Prospeed Motorsport fashioned a fire truck out of the globally popular Toyota Hilux pickup because of its compact size. EV fires often break out in places that are hard to reach with conventional fire-fighting vehicles, like underground garages or multi-story parking structures. They’ve named it the Hiload, and made sure it has a 1,850mm (72.8 inches) height so it can clear height restrictions in urban carparks.
Additionally, EV fires usually begin with battery packs that are damaged internally. The catch is that they’re usually housed in difficult-to-reach areas of the car. The Hiload carries a ColdCut Cobra fire suppression system that uses an “ultra high pressure lance” to shoot abrasive material suspended in water at 4,350 psi. The liquid spear breaks through the battery casing so water can be sprayed directly into the modules.
In theory this will limit “thermal runaway,” the phenomenon where damaged lithium-ion batteries heat up very rapidly in a chemical chain reaction to high temperatures that can be very difficult to put out. Firefighters in some cases have had to keep EVs submerged in water for days. The ColdCut Cobra system is said to be able to squelch a fire with just 60 gallons of water.
The Hiload starts out as a regular four-wheel-drive Hilux, but the ladder frame chassis is replaced with a one of Prospeed’s own design to handle six wheels. It increases payload to 6,600 pounds and can be configured in a variety of ways. Prospeed has been building other six-wheeled vehicles as troop carriers,120-mm mortars or tactical infiltration vehicles. As fire truck, it weighs 5,600 kg (12,346 pounds), but maintains a lower center of gravity than larger fire engines.
The Hiload is currently being tested in the Czech Republic as Prospeed works on a smaller version with only four wheels.