Ford F150 Lightning EV Truck's Front Trunk: What the Frunk?
Being a cardboard box is an honorable profession but a thankless job too. One day you're the thin brown line valiantly holding back an avalanche of old photo albums in the attic. The next you're torn asunder and tossed into the fireplace. Unless you're one heroic cardboard box in Ford corporate's copier paper room, inspiring greatness in those around you as a beacon of imagination. Rather than rely on all of those fancy CAD programs at their fingertips, the design team for the all-electric 2022 F-150 Lightning turned to that shining beacon in designing the front trunk for the truck. Or, as the team dubbed the new feature, the Mega Power Frunk.
Someone somewhere in the industry came up with the frunk portmanteau descriptor for the cargo space found at the front of many, if not all, EVs. The name stuck and now the F-150 Lightning frunk boasts 400 liters (14.1 cubic feet) of cargo space and maximum payload capacity of 400 pounds, making it the largest frunk in its class. Which, while certainly growing, certainly puts a caveat to Ford's frunk size claims. It's easy to be the biggest when the gene pool is small. But it won't remain so for long. The Lightning's nearest competitors like the Chevy Silverado EV, the GMC Hummer EV, Rivian R1T, and Tesla Cybertruck are all either moving toward production or are already there.
Won't You Take Me to Frunkytown?
Obviously, Ford isn't the first player to offer a frunk on its EVs. Gas-powered mid- and rear-engine vehicles have had them for some time. Tesla models have had them for years and earlier this year General Motors took the odd marketing step of trying to trademark the term ETRUNK. Why they would do that when "frunk" lends itself so much better to puns is anyone's guess, but you do you, GM. Get down with your ETRUNKY bad self.
Having said that, the Lightning's designers are pretty happy with their truck's front package. “The F-150 Lightning pickup’s Mega Power Frunk is one of those features that reshape what vehicles can provide for customers. It’s sheer size, ample power supply, drainable floor and open and close system that opens with the touch of a button make it frunking awesome!” said Linda Zhang, F-150 Lightning Chief Program Engineer.
What many don’t know is this spacious and dynamic space began life as a simple cardboard box with a cutout front door and a liftable hood. Thankfully, the team wasn't eating Pringles or a bag of Doritos at the time inspiration struck.
We Want the Frunk
It began back in February 2018 with Team Edison (see what they did there? Have at thee, Tesla), Ford’s dedicated battery electric vehicles incubator. It incorporates close collaboration between different teams to find solutions to customer needs. A small group of young user experience designers set out to California, where they sat down with actual Ford truck and fleet customers to talk about how they might use such a feature. The prototype, made of cardboard for simplicity and cost and built in about a day using scissors and hot glue, was brought to every meeting to help customers visualize the opportunity. When you're taking inspiration from a cardboard box, it helps to actually have one for showing end users so that they can really relate. I mean, it's not like there are cardboard boxes just lying around all over the place, am I right?
All snark aside, in the studio, Greg Ardisana, design strategy director, passenger vehicles, and other Team Edison research members worked as consultants alongside engineering and design whenever they had customer use questions, which led to a close-knit collaboration between groups.
“Since the frunk was a new space, all the truck customers we interacted with got really excited about what it could be and what use they could get out of it in their daily lives,” said Ardisana. “We needed to take what they wanted and find a way to deliver on it.”
Truck customers imagined fitting not one, but two golf bags, into the Mega Power Frunk, even when it wasn’t a golf day. The additional permanent storage keeps valuables out of sight, is lockable and secure. Fleet owners saw their crews using the space to haul bags of concrete and charge their electric tools at construction sites. Customers also wanted lights to see at night, electric outlets, a work surface and optimized access height to make the space truly usable. All of these valuable insights were derived from a simple piece of cardboard. Fortunately, no actual cardboard was harmed in the making of the final frunk.
There were challenges. Due to cargo volume numbers provided by vehicle architecture engineers, the first was the size of the frunk. It had to fit two golf bags, but this meant sacrificing a symmetrical frunk design.
The team treated it like a cooler box that needed to be durable and easy to clean, and have a rubberized floor with anti-slide properties. Once the frunk fit the main shell, finding ways to add all of the features on the customer wish list was the next hurdle.
Lighting began as typical trunk lighting. It was functional, but the “wow” factor was missing. So the team pivoted and installed truck bed lamps in the frunk hood. The lamps offered a lighting source on the inner side of the hood, which prevented cargo from blocking lights and did away with unwanted glare and shadowing of the load area.
Four electrical outlets and two USB chargers were added to provide versatility for work and play. 2.4 kilowatts of power are available for everything from TVs to laptops, speakers to crockpots, power tools and other devices. Because as we all know from the Mustang Mach-E, this isn't the first time Ford's done something wacky with a frunk...
Play that Frunky Music
Lastly, access to lift and remove objects from the frunk had to be waist-height, as customers did not want to have to reach over the truck’s bed rails for their equipment. The waterfall grille was integrated into the hood by the engineering and design teams who were able to create an accessibility height that is similar to the rear cargo area of a Ford Expedition. The Mega Power Frunk has a powered open and close system also with six different ways to open it, including from your phone on the FordPass app as well as through an integrated push button on the grille.
Once the frunk is open, customers can fill it with ice and drinks to “frunkgate” it, since it’s water-resistant, cleanable and has a drainable floor.
Steve McInally, frunk feature supervisor, said the team explored every detail as an opportunity. “We put the customer first in every decision we made and were able to deliver on a Mega Power Frunk,” he said. “And it’s going to blow people’s minds.”