Auto Makers Tout the ‘Frunk:’ A Trunk in Front. But Does the Word Sound Like Swearing?

Drivers can now have less junk in their trunk, and more in their frunk.

People have long prized having storage space in the back of their cars, whether for stashing tools or tailgating. As more buy electric vehicles, they’ll increasingly be tossing stuff in an inelegantly named space where the engine used to be.

Meet the frunk, for front trunk. EVs trade out the engine for a battery pack, which typically lines the vehicle’s floor. That opens up a big front-end cavity for a new role.

While under-hood storage has long existed on niche vehicles, it was never anything car makers made a big deal about. Today, as competition among EV producers heats up, they have unleashed their designers on the front trunk and made a feature as mundane as storage space something to brag about.

Football fans can use the Mustang Mach-E’s frunk for tailgating, Ford says.



Last month, when

Ford Motor Co.

celebrated the start of production for its electric F-150 Lightning pickup, the truck’s 14.1-cubic-feet frunk took center stage. Chief Executive

Jim Farley

listed the ways people could use its “Mega Power Frunk,” like hauling 400 pounds of concrete or wet and dirty gear.

The built-in power outlets can charge other EVs “like for your friends who own Teslas,” Mr. Farley said. And “hell, you tell me how many beers you’d be able to fit in that frunk.” It comes with a drain, so it could serve as a cooler during a game-day tailgate, or what Ford calls a “frunkgate,” party.

The frunk has long been a staple of Tesla models and has developed a bit of a cult following, with social media users trying to come up with more creative uses for it.

The frunk name has its detractors, though, including some who say the portmanteau makes them cringe. “It sounds like you’re swearing,” said

Rich Scheer,

director of design for the GMC Hummer EV. “Like your mom’s going to yell at you for saying it aloud.”

General Motors Co.

executives are trying to trademark a term they prefer: the “eTrunk.” So far, nobody has tried to steal that from them.

Auto and aviation pioneer Charles Stewart Rolls drove an early Peugeot with a literal front trunk. Before he co-founded Rolls-Royce, Mr. Rolls imported French cars to London.


SSPL/Getty Images

France was likely the first home of the front trunk, said

Brian Baker,

principal historian at the Automotive Hall of Fame. He said French designers created automobiles around the start of the 20th century that had a middle or rear engine and small compartment under the hood.

Engines eventually claimed that spot on most vehicles, although a front trunk continued to grace some well-known cars, such as the Chevrolet Corvair and older versions of the Volkswagen Beetle. But it wasn’t until the rise of the electric vehicle, and especially

Tesla Inc.’s

marketing of the spot as a “frunk,” that the concept became widespread, Mr. Baker said.

Earl Banning,

a neuropsychologist in Dayton, Ohio, used his Tesla Model 3’s frunk for toting luggage or pungent Thai takeout, but he wanted to do something to show it off. He posted a picture of his dog in the open frunk at


hashtag #frunkpuppy. Four years later, he said, he gets hundreds of submissions for his “frunk puppy” of the week contest, some showing frunks holding kitties or hamsters.

“I’m a Tesla fan, but I always wanted ‘frunk puppy’ to be EV agnostic,” Dr. Banning said. “I thought what a great way to raise awareness of EVs.”

The number of electric vehicles sold in the U.S. rose 92% last year, according to data from data provider Producers are leaning into the front-trunk concept even if they’re unsettled on what exactly to call it.


Automotive Inc. uses the front trunk to highlight the brand’s outdoorsy attributes, promoting the space for stowing camping or hiking gear. “It will be a differentiator because there are some brands deciding not to” have one, said

Jeff Hammoud,

head of design. He said Rivian hasn’t decided whether to label it a front trunk, frunk or something else.

In 1974, students at Wheat Ridge High School in Colorado tried to see how many bodies they could stuff in the front trunk of a VW Beetle.


Denver Post/Getty Images

Lucid Group Inc.

has marketed the front trunk in its Air sedan with gimmicks such as filling it with frozen turkeys at Thanksgiving. Chief Engineer

Eric Bach

said the word “frunk” isn’t his favorite. Lucid has a British CEO, but “froot”—for front boot—hasn’t stuck, either. Lucid refers to it as simply the “front trunk.”

Some auto makers and customers say the front space is a boon to owners of pickups, so they don’t have to buy stow-away compartments or put stuff in the truck bed and see it slide around. Ford had an unusually big design team working on its frunk, four people throughout the development process, said

Ehab Kaoud,

chief designer.

Not all EV makers are getting their frunk on.

Volkswagen AG

uses the front-end space in its electric ID.4 SUV for components that would typically crowd the cabin, such as the mechanical guts for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, a spokesman said. The team behind

Fisker Inc.’s

electric Ocean SUV skipped the front trunk as a cost-saving move, funneling the money saved into battery improvements, said CEO

Henrik Fisker.

Both the VW and Fisker EVs still have traditional back-of-the-vehicle trunks, as is the norm for EV sedans.

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To Tesla owner

Gary Way,

the front trunk is kind of a gimmick. The frunk in his Tesla Model Y is too small to store anything useful, the suburban Cleveland resident said. When the car is in his garage, he has to shift around a picnic table, bikes and a wheelbarrow to access the front trunk, he said.

But the frunk on a Mustang Mach-E came in handy for

Mike Norton

when he ran for a Minneapolis city council seat last year. At campaign stops, he used it as a cooler so he could offer constituents root beer.

Tom Martin

of Chadds Ford Township, Pa., who has a Ford F-150 Lightning on order, is eager to use its under-the-hood trunk for golf clubs and the power outlets for cooking equipment on ski trips.

He is a little jarred by the word for it, frunk. “The first time you hear it, it sounds like: ‘What are you talking about?’” Mr.  Martin said. “Just like any other thing, you get used to it after a while.”

The frunk of a Mustang Mach-E held root beer for voters as Mike Norton campaigned for a Minneapolis city council seat last year. It wasn’t enough.


Mike Norton

Write to Nora Eckert at [email protected]

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