The electric F-150 frunk started with a cardboard model

The term “frunk” is becoming more and more popular as more and more electric cars hit the road. A much mocked amalgamation of the words “front” and “trunk,” the word simply refers to the compartment where the engine is located in most traditional combustion cars – a space that has now become the key to unlocking more car space. storage in some modern cars. automobiles.

When Ford gave the green light to an all-electric version of its F-150 pickup, it knew its engineers could use this nook to add additional storage without sacrificing existing cabin or bed space. And to shape his vision, Ford used one of the most rudimentary tools in the industry: a cardboard box.

[Related: The Ford F-150 Lightning is an electric vehicle for truck lovers]

Towards the start of Ford’s journey of designing a battery-powered pickup, the automaker embarked on a reconnaissance mission in 2018 to determine how it could use electrification to improve the experience of owning a truck. The company knew it would use the new storage space for this task. So in one day, a group of EV-centric employees (known internally as Team Edison) used an old cardboard box to sculpt a rough model. of what would become the “Mega Power Frunk” of the F-150.

The design team cut out the box to look like the front of a vehicle. They gave the cardboard model a pop-up hood, engine compartment, fenders, and front cutout to show the empty space where the engine would normally sit.

This cardboard model then traveled with the design arm of the Edison team to California, the state with the most electric vehicles registered in the country. Ford formed focus groups of existing truck owners and fleet customers to discuss how they could use such a space, and owners were immediately excited about the possibilities.

“If you want something of value stowed away and kept dry, it usually accompanies you to your cabin,” said Linda Zhang, chief engineer of the F-150 Lightning, in an interview with The reader earlier this year. “And then it basically hinders the space that people normally use. So this Mega Power Frunk was great because it provides that dry lockable storage that in a way gives our customers their cabin back.

Ford said its customers are considering outfitting the Mega Power Frunk with plenty of watertight storage that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to with limited cabin space and an open bed. Some, according to Ford, have photographed two golf bags in the bag. Others wanted to fill the frunk with mulch and be able to water the space after bringing it home. Another common request was that the flat area of ​​the trunk be approximately waist-high to facilitate loading and unloading.

It was clear that the Mega Power Frunk should be a workaholic area. Ford worked hard to design the area to hold up to 400 pounds of payload, and built the trunk to house up to 14.1 cubic feet of cargo. This made it not only solid, but also the largest front trunk in the entire auto industry, offered to Ford.

The name “Mega Power Frunk” sounds silly, but there’s a reason Ford put the words together in that order. Namely, it has to do with stuffing cool stuff that uses the truck’s high voltage battery. For example, there are outlets that can provide up to 2.4 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power tools, laptops, etc., using standard household outlets. Ford also included USB chargers and work lights.

“[Our] customers have kind of helped us achieve [that the Lightning] is a VE, ”Zhang continued. “Can we do something with power? Could we do something with the drums and get some takes here? Or make a bigger space and make it so you can put the TV in here, or put your flags on a tailgate? “

[Related: What to know before you buy an electric vehicle]

Speaking of tailgating, this was also an important consideration in the design of the trunk. Customers wanted to “frunk gate” using new technology, which meant filling the space with ice and drinks, or using outlets to plug in a slow cooker for hot foods.

The rapid transition to electrification is a big challenge for manufacturers. The underlying combustion engine technology that has been the norm for over a century is now being phased out. Ford is just one of the manufacturers who have seized the opportunity to innovate in this new space with the F-150 Lightning. Sometimes using a low-tech approach like a model built from a recycled cardboard box can even prove useful in automotive design.

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning and its Mega Power Frunk are expected to land on dealer lots from spring 2022.

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