Abstract The present study focuses on the dynamic electro-thermal modeling for the all-vanadium flow battery (VRB) with forced cooling strategies. The Foster network is adopted to dynamically model the heat dissipation of VRB with heat exchangers. The parameters of Foster network are extracted by fitting the step response of it to the results of linearized CFD model. Then a complete electro-thermal model is proposed by coupling the heat generation model, Foster network and electrical model. Results show that the established model has nearly the same accuracy with the nonlinear CFD model in electrolyte temperature prediction but drastically improves the computational efficiency. The modeled terminal voltage is also benchmarked with the experimental data under different current densities. The electrolyte temperature is found to be significantly influenced by the flow rate of coolant. As compared, although the electrolyte flow rate has unremarkable impact on electrolyte temperature, its effect on system pressure drop and battery efficiency is significant. Increasing the electrolyte flow rate improves the coulombic efficiency, voltage efficiency and energy efficiency simultaneously but at the expense of higher pump power demanded. An optimal flow rate exists for each operating condition to maximize the system efficiency.