Tempe Fire Medical Rescue using new device to fight electric vehicle battery fires

Mar 13, 2024, 4:05 AM | Updated: 1:49 pm

PHOENIX – The Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Department will soon implement a new device that will help them combat battery fires in electric vehicles, officials announced earlier this month.

The Coldcut Cobra System is a fire extinguishing tool with a high-pressure water lance that can penetrate any building material known to man, quickly extinguishing fires, according to a news bulletin.

“Electric vehicles are becoming more and more prevalent on our roadways daily. We have had encounters with electric vehicle fires already in our neighboring cities,” Assistant Chief Chris Snow said.

Poisonous gases can float into the atmosphere, while burning batteries can contaminate water sources, he added.

However, the Coldcut Cobra system will enable Tempe firefighters to minimize the environmental impact of EV battery fires, he said.

“We are actually the first fire department in the United States to have one of these systems,” Snow said.

Why EV battery fires are so hard for firefighters to put down

Currently, firefighters face unique challenges when trying to put down EV battery fires. That’s because the batteries are encased in steel and usually under vehicles’ floorboards, Snow said.

“This system will actually help us penetrate that steel and get inside that battery pack to distribute water and stop the thermal runaway that takes place when those batteries ignite,” Snow said.

He was referring to a dangerous process that begins when lithium-ion batteries heat up. As temperature increases, a release of energy drives the heat even higher. Essentially, thermal runaway is a state a lithium-ion cell enters when it’s uncontrollably overheating.

Arizona fire departments following in Europe’s footsteps

The Coldcut Cobra System is a traditional firefighting tool back in Europe, according to Coldcut Systems CEO Johan Ivarsson.

“It usually takes a long time to extinguish these type of fires,” Ivarsson said. “It can be up to several hours and using a lot of gallons of water.”

However, testing shows firefighters they can stop EV battery fires in 5-10 minutes using as little as 200 or 300 gallons of water, he said.

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Tempe Fire Medical Rescue using new device to fight electric vehicle battery fires