Home » Your EV’s Frunk Can Be Dangerous, But Only If You’re Very Silly With It

Your EV’s Frunk Can Be Dangerous, But Only If You’re Very Silly With It

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Now that there are more EVs on the market, a lot more cars have frunks. That got us thinking—do frunks pose a safety risk that we haven’t seen before? In the event of a front-on crash, what happens? Does a frunk’s cargo effect crash safety?

Frunks are more common in the EV era, but they’re not a new invention. Historically, most cars had an engine under the hood, and that was it. Rear-engine cars with under-hood front storage have been around almost as long as modern cars have been on roads, but even when rear-engine models were at their peak number, they were the rare exceptions to the front-engine rule. Now that EVs have made the frunk virtually mainstream, it’s worth looking at it in more detail.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I decided to hit up a couple of industry agencies and a professional engineer for their opinions on the matter. I learned that, while frunks aren’t a major safety risk, you can still do some harm if you’re particularly reckless or stupid.

Bmw I3 Debut Front Storage
Some EVs have tiny frunks. The i3 barely has a single cubic foot of storage up front.

What’s the Difference?

The front of the vehicle is a critical piece of crash structure for protecting the occupants. The thing about frunks is that they’re a large volume inside the front of the vehicle that is effectively uncontrolled. In traditional front-engined vehicles, this isn’t the case. Even though these cars have a big heavy engine up front, the vehicle is engineered to deal with this in a crash. Often, engine mounts and surrounding structures are designed to allow the engine to break free and move in such a way that it doesn’t present a risk to the people inside the vehicle.

Mustang Mach E Frunk
Other EVs are so spacious that their frunks are used to celebrate the gruesome excesses of capitalism. I will never shake the vision of that woman’s gleaming yet irascible smile as she scoops shrimp out of the 4.8 cubic feet of front storage available on the 2025 Ford Mustang Mach-E. It haunts me. 

In a frunk, though, the automaker has no idea what you’ve put in there or how it’s going to behave in an accident. Adding to the risk is that the frunk is generally directly in front of the driver and passenger. Thus, you might think that in a front-end accident, anything in the frunk could have an effect on the crash safety of the vehicle.

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It’s easy to imagine a head-on collision turning fiery if you stored a big can of gas in the frunk, for example. But what would happen if you put a big heavy metal anvil in your frunk? Or a toolbox, or lots of lengths of steel rebar? These were just a few scenarios I gamed out in my head. An anvil or rods of rebar would surely pose a serious penetration risk to the cabin, right? And yet nobody seems to be talking about this!

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BMW i3 owners have been known to put additional gas tanks in their frunks. This can pose some risk of fire in a crash. Credit: Paul Housley

My first port of call was the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). This independent organization investigates crash safety with the aim of reducing deaths, injuries, and property damage from motor vehicle accidents. The agency was first founded by three major insurance associations. As you might imagine, reducing negative outcomes from car crashes would have serious benefits for insurers. So, if anyone was concerned about this, surely it would be the IIHS, right?

The response from the IIHS ultimately suggested that it doesn’t see frunk safety as a big deal. “Carrying cargo in the frunk doesn’t raise any specific safety concerns,” said Joe Young, director of media relations for IIHS. Young did note, however, that it’s still not wise to put just anything upfront. “That said, placing something that is explosive or flammable in that space could present unique risks, as it would in a trunk during a severe rear impact,” he continued. Young noted that at this time, the IIHS does not place any objects in a frunk during crash tests.

Next, I wrote to the NHTSA. At the time of writing, the agency was yet to provide a specific response on the matter. However, they later came through with an update.

Electric vehicles currently undergo the same Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard crash tests as internal combustion engine vehicles. No passenger vehicle test requires placing cargo in the front or rear trunks expressly to test how that cargo would affect frontal or rear crash test results. NHTSA’s frontal crash tests of EVs thus far have been conducted with empty frunks.

Thankfully, though, at The Autopian, we’re well connected. I was able to reach out to an engineer who has worked on crash safety for decades. They were able to explain a lot about frunks and crash safety, and give me an insight into general industry thinking around this matter.

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The Engineer’s View

Engineers routinely use a method called Design Failure Mode and Effect Analysis. This helps classify risks in terms of their likelihood of occurrence and the consequences if they occur. Naturally, it makes sense that crash safety engineers focus on highly likely scenarios with highly dangerous outcomes first, before they look at edge cases. For example, it’s important to make sure that passengers can safely survive common front-end or side-overlap crashes. That’s relevant every time an owner gets in their vehicle to go for a drive. We have real-world data that tell us what kind of crashes are most common and most dangerous, and automakers look to sort those out first.

Screenshot 2024 05 03 171924
Crash safety efforts are data-driven. NHTSA data shows the vast majority of fatal crashes involve frontal impact, so that’s a major focus for automakers. Crash outcomes involving cargo within the vehicle—frunks, trunks or otherwise—are rare enough that the NHTSA has found no need to specifically track them at this stage.

Crashes where cargo in the trunk played a role simply aren’t popping up in the datasets.  That means our hypothetical frunk danger scenarios just aren’t as relevant, statistically speaking. Frunk utilization isn’t anywhere near 100%, for a start. In many cases, it’s pretty low. On some vehicles, some owners never even use their frunk, because it’s too small or inconvenient.

Even on vehicles with big frunks, like the F-150 Lightning, owners probably don’t use them every single time they drive. And, when they are using the trunk, it’s an even smaller percentage of the time that they’d even consider putting something potentially dangerous in there. And for a lot of frunks, their very design can inherently limit the potential danger. If you’ve got an EV with a tiny, cramped frunk, what are you going to put in there that’s so dangerous, anyway?

Kia Ev6 Interior Front Storage
You’d have to try pretty hard to make the frunk dangerous in the Kia EV6. Probably wouldn’t store my grenades there, but shoes should be fine.

Fundamentally, in regular use, it seems that we aren’t seeing a lot of dangerous crashes where frunk cargo was involved. If we were, crash reports would have filtered through to agencies like the IIHS, and crash safety engineers would be working on mitigating these risks.

That’s not to say there’s zero risk in how you use a frunk. It’s entirely possible to put something dangerous in your frunk that could cause you great harm in the event of a crash.

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For example, if you put a ton of jerry cans in your frunk, or a bunch of propane tanks, they’re probably going to cause an issue in the event of a bad accident. Of course, this is no different than if you had them in the trunk of your car, and your vehicle was hit from behind.

It’s also possible to interfere with the front crumple zones of your vehicle, but this is a very unlikely scenario. My contact explained that if you’re putting something in the frunk that is rigidly transferring loads into the vehicle structure, you’re going to have a problem. Otherwise, you’re probably going to be fine. For example, if you put a small toolbox in your frunk, that’s okay.

Mach E Hot Wings
In a crash, this could cause a mess all over the road, but it’s not going to impact the safety of the vehicle.

However, if you build a super-tough, super-rigid toolbox into your frunk that’s directly in contact with structural members, or bolted in, that could cause issues. It could add a lot of rigidity to the vehicle’s front structure, changing how it behaves in a crash. The front end of a vehicle is designed to dynamically crush to absorb energy in a crash. Often, at least over 2.5 feet (0.8 m) of dynamic crush space is desirable. If your toolbox or other cargo is rigidly interacting with the vehicle structure, it could prevent this happening. If that energy isn’t dissipated properly in a crash, outcomes for the vehicle occupants could be far worse.

Intrusion is also a risk, but perhaps an unlikely one. I wouldn’t go stacking lots of steel rebar in my frunk, for example. At least, not in a front-to-back orientation where it might skewer through the cabin in a crash. Any rigid item that can focus a great deal of load on a point could pierce through to the passenger cabin in a crash, and this would be highly dangerous to the occupants.

Lightningfrunk
Reasonable loading scenarios aren’t likely to impact the way the crash structure behaves.

Hard, heavy objects can be dangerous cargo in general, but that’s not really specific to frunks. You wouldn’t want a small solid anvil bouncing around freely in your trunk, and it’s no different up front. Either way, it’s still preferable to having it in the passenger cabin, where it could become a missile that gives you a permanent brain injury. A larger, heavier anvil that fills the frunk space would likely be dangerous, given it could cause cabin intrusion in a crash. If you really had to move one, you’d be better off sticking it in a truck bed instead.

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Ultimately, frunk safety isn’t that hard. Don’t chuck a bunch of flammable liquids or gas tanks in there. Don’t transport heavy, rigid building materials up there. And finally, don’t do anything that’s going to change the way the crash structure behaves. If you’re really having to shove in a big heavy toolbox to get it to fit, or you’re wedging in some steel beams right up against the frunk walls, you’re probably headed for trouble.

20220602 Nolis Anderson Sizing Up 0739 Ttrpry
If you’re just using your frunk for a few bits and pieces, you’re fine.

Don’t be silly out there, and you’ll be fine. Fill your frunk with prawns, not propane, and you’ll be safe out on the road. Stay milky out there, friends. Stay milky.

Image credits: Ford, BMW
Top graphic bomb image: Martin Bergsma/stock.adobe.com

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Musicman27
Musicman27
15 days ago

If i were a standard maker, i would have them test the front-end collisions with a trunk full of a bag of tools and general luggage. If the luggage cannot fit, then just the tools.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
16 days ago

Don’t chuck a bunch of flammable liquids or gas tanks in there. Don’t transport heavy, rigid building materials up there. And finally, don’t do anything that’s going to change the way the crash structure behaves. “

So I should be fine transporting a bunch of fireworks and this mega pack of matches I have, right? RIGHT???

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
15 days ago

As long as you have loosely-packed boxes of nuts and bolts surrounding them on all sides for shrapnel – err, padding.

Last edited 15 days ago by Ricardo Mercio
Timbales
Timbales
16 days ago

Things I would store in the frunk of the fictional EV I don’t own:

  • confetti
  • feathers
  • cans of silly string
  • several inflated whoopee cushions
  • three of those inflatable tube characters rigged to an auxiliary power source

I look at the frunk picture of the Ford truck and marvel at the front visibility it would have had if they didn’t have to adhere to the Great Wall front-end aesthetic that’s required of modern pick-ups.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
16 days ago
Reply to  Timbales
Timbales
Timbales
16 days ago

I did forget about those little rubber bouncy balls

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
16 days ago
Reply to  Timbales

Oh yeah… rubber bouncy balls are also a must have!

You can buy them in bulk here:
https://www.amazon.ca/Bouncy-Assorted-Designs-Stocking-Stuffer/dp/B081TJ5BCX

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
16 days ago

I think that storing food anywhere in a car directly in any compartment instead of an appropriate container poses a more immediate health risk than being dangerous in the case of a crash.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
17 days ago

My non-work daily has a decal on the dash to the effect that carrying loose, unsecured, sharp objects in the trunk could puncture the fuel tank and risk fire in a high speed rear impact. Of course, it also had a quadruple 5 star NHTSA safety rating when new, so, I guess, I just can’t carry, like, a javelin back there. Point is, these concerns aren’t novel for electric cars and I hope it doesn’t become some sort of mainstream media hysteria that results in highly useful frunks being banned or something, like a lot of German automakers are probably hoping happens (and if the 25 year rule tells us anything, its that German automakers do often get what they want in this country)

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
17 days ago

I always make sure to put my Mk XIV torpedo in the frunk lengthways, that way it won’t detonate in a frontal crash.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
16 days ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

And if you have someone going slow in the fast lane, you have a convenient way of taking care of them… as long as you didn’t put it in backward.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
18 days ago

I am absolutely repulsed by the picture and idea of frunk shrimp. I can’t believe that’s an actual marketing image. Revolting

Wc Jeep
Wc Jeep
18 days ago

Retired coworker previously worked Boeing night shift. Someone told him and other new guy to have rocket transported to other Boeing facility. Being two new guys they did know that meant call the transport unit that specialized in such things. They loaded the rocket into back of a personal pickup truck. Security guard at second facility freaked out when they arrived with an experimental rocket in a personal truck with no safety precautions and no paperwork.

The Mark
The Mark
18 days ago

I know it has a drain, but I sure hope that Mach-E frunk is removable so it can be hosed out. Otherwise you’re never going to get all the shrimp juice or BBQ sauce out. Imagine the stench. Blech!

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
18 days ago

I keep my filled loose emergency fuel can in the frunk of the Porsche, which is probably considerably less safe than having a solid extra fuel tank in an BMW i3, but have never really given much thought to it, until now…
Not many hot or sparky parts in the front of the car, to ignite a ruptured can in a crash, so not going to move it.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
18 days ago

it would be fun to see what engines from the same company can fit in the frunk of an EV

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
18 days ago

Not all collisions are frontal. Using this logic, nothing dangerous should go in a rear trunk, either, since it also serves as a crumple zone?

Greensoul
Greensoul
18 days ago

one more for the road, FRUNK THAT!!!

Greensoul
Greensoul
18 days ago

So society has come to this. What junk is in your frunk???? We live in sad, sad, times. I’ll get excited when they pull out a condo from the frunk. Till then, I’m just gonna pray for society

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
18 days ago

“Other EVs are so spacious that their frunks are used to celebrate the gruesome excesses of capitalism. I will never shake the vision of that woman’s gleaming yet irascible smile as she scoops shrimp out of the 4.8 cubic feet of front storage available on the 2025 Ford Mustang Mach-E. It haunts me.”

Dude! Have you NOT seen Jason and his wheelbarrow of shrimp? Compared to that gross exuberance this Mach-E frunk might as well be in a communist’s Tatra.

Greensoul
Greensoul
18 days ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

ummmm, will that crate hemi I just ordered off of Amazon fit??? Salesman said my frunk was huuuuuuge

Fineheresyourdamn70dollars
Fineheresyourdamn70dollars
19 days ago

Thought provoking. I now am as scared to put a 20 lb cylinder in the frunk as loose in the back hatch area. Or, as frequently seen on the back roads of Forgottonia, just bungie an old milk crate to the roof and carry the propane where it will remove itself from the scene in case of crash – just like the unbelted occupants!

What me?
What me?
19 days ago

I have a hard time to imagine what happened in the 22 instances of “noncollissions” in the multiple-vehicle crashes category. How can 2 things not collide in a crash?

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
19 days ago
Reply to  What me?

When you successfully avoided colliding with another car by hitting a tree?

Data
Data
19 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Or when you swerve to miss those two f’ing squirrels and they high-five when you crash into a tree.

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
19 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

But it’s labelled Initial Point of Contact, so even contact with a tree or wall would be a collision.

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
19 days ago
Reply to  What me?

Road rage baseball bat to fenders and windows?

The Mark
The Mark
18 days ago
Reply to  What me?

Panic swerve, car rolled? I wondered about this too.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
19 days ago

I really had no idea anvils, big or small bounced. I would think a test having the recommended items in your car in the event of an emergency. A small can of gas? Boom. Flares? Fire. Water? Not in an EV. Full size spare? I’m kidding where can you get a full sized spare?

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
19 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

They do! Not well, but they bounce more than you would think. Metal has some elasticity, which is why it makes excellent springs.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
18 days ago

Well I know my roadrunner cartoons and the anvils usually just burrow into the ground.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
18 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Acme brand anvils are made from dark matter.

BentleyBoy
BentleyBoy
17 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Well to do the anvil test first we need a roadrunner………..

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
17 days ago
Reply to  BentleyBoy

Well should we look for roadrunners on Carvana or Bring a Trailer?

Chronometric
Chronometric
19 days ago

When I drive on high-speed vintage rallies I take 5 or 10 gallons of extra gasoline with me. In the Corvair, the extra frunk weight caused front wheel rubbing so I moved the jerry cans to the back seat area. Problem solved and now I feel much safer.

Clark B
Clark B
19 days ago
Reply to  Chronometric

At least Corvairs put the gas tank down low in the trunk area (I had to Google this). In my Super Beetle, the tank sits right above your legs. Before I finally got the factory style hard board trunk liner, careless loading of the frunk could disconnect the fuel gauge wiring. Fascinating to me that the Pinto got such a reputation, when I have to imagine old Beetles caught fire just as often. Especially with the fuel tank right next to all the dashboard wiring, fuses, and relays.

PlugInPA
PlugInPA
19 days ago

No frunk article is complete without the Mach-E shrimp.

Cars? I've owned a few
Cars? I've owned a few
19 days ago
Reply to  PlugInPA

A frunk full of shrimp, sans ice, would make for an awful avenue of revenge for a cheated on spouse/significant other/etc.

Space
Space
18 days ago
Reply to  PlugInPA

The autopian needs to one up them.
Considering the autopian could probably get their hands on a Ford Lightning, next year they should fill it’s frunk with mussels.

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
19 days ago

I have to say, if you’re going to make an aggressively different stainless steel EV truck and not make the frunk a coal-fired BBQ, what are you even doing?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
19 days ago

An EV that burns coal? Maybe a super-sized George Foreman grill?

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
19 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

How else would Elon make his EV truck roll coal?

Data
Data
19 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Technically, if your electricity comes from a coal fired power plant, your EV is coal powered. In that same vein, a few years ago I ended up behind a Tesla at a stop light with “coalpwrd” vanity plates. I have no idea if their local power was in fact coal, but it made me chuckle.

Framed
Framed
17 days ago
Reply to  Data

This site would give you some idea https://app.electricitymaps.com/map

That guy
That guy
19 days ago

1 up on the shrimp barrow

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