The 6x6 Hiload is a fire engine for electric vehicles
Electric cars do a great deal of good on our roads. They’re quiet, so they don’t disturb the peace, and they’re local emissions-free, making for cleaner air in cities and suburbs. But one thing in particular is causing concern among firefighters.
Electric cars are far less likely to catch fire than combustion engined ones filled with flammable petrol. But when they go, they really, really go. A phenomenon called thermal runaway means a chain reaction within the battery’s cell chemistry starts a fire that’s extremely difficult to stop with conventional firefighting techniques. This problem is exacerbated in difficult to access areas like multi-storey car parks – a common recharging point for EV drivers.
To that end, this is a fire engine developed specifically for that task. It’s called the Hiload 6x6 Rapid Intervention Vehicle. It has been created by a York based company called Prospeed Motorsport and it’s a heavily modified Toyota Hilux pick-up truck.
The Hilux donor car is thoroughly transformed with a new chassis enabling a 6x6 wheelbase, capable of carrying a 3,000kg payload. It’s longer than a regular Hilux, but barely any higher, so it can still get into tight access spots like car parks. The Hiload's 6x6 off-road capability means this is a go-anywhere machine.
Its secret weapon is an extinguisher system designed specifically to tackle electric car fires and thermal runaway. Called the Coldcut Cobra system, it fires water primed with an abrasive material at 300 bar of pressure, the idea being the abrasive punctures through the battery casing allowing for the water to penetrate throughout the cell. It’s a very neat alternative to the old practice of simply dumping thousands of litres of water on a flame-engulfed electric car.
For now, the Hiload 6x6 is being trialled with Czech emergency response services and at least one EV manufacturer. Will we see these on UK roads in the near future?