- Linda Zhang led the crew that made Ford’s first electric truck.
- The F-150 Lightning has had 200,000 orders and helped create a brand new era of truckers.
- Zhang mentioned beating ‘vary nervousness’ and demonstrating the truck’s towing energy had been essential.
Ford’s F-150 has been the best-selling truck in the US for 45 consecutive years, and the most well-liked car total for at least 4 many years.
While getting drivers of passenger automobiles to go electric has been fairly easy, convincing patrons that an electric truck can match their gasoline-powered equivalents in vary, payload, towing capability, sturdiness, and reliability is way more of a problem, the AAA’s Greg Brannon advised Insider.
The girl rising to that problem for Ford is Linda Zhang, the chief engineer of Ford’s electric model of the F-150 referred to as the Lightning.
There have been 200,000 orders for the truck, and the extent of curiosity prompted Ford to virtually double manufacturing to 150,000 a 12 months, but patrons nonetheless face a three-year wait to get behind the wheel. It’s additionally been a hit with critics.
Hearts and minds
So how have Zhang and her crew been in a position to persuade truck-loving Americans to go electric?
With a background in engineering, finance, manufacturing, and technique at Ford, Zhang labored on the Ford Explorer and Escape SUVs earlier than getting the decision that Ford needed her to push ahead with an electric model of the vastly widespread F-150.
But Zhang, who joined Ford 26 years in the past on the corporate’s graduate program, advised Insider merely changing the gasoline-powered mannequin with an electric model would not work.
“You have to change hearts and minds. Minds are something you can do with dollars – EVs are cheaper to operate. But what do we do with a vehicle to change hearts?”
Before getting to that time, Zhang first had to persuade Ford workers, lots of whom she mentioned had been skeptical in regards to the very concept of a plug-in F-150.
“We had several people on the team that would say “I’ll work on this mission but I’m never going to be one among your prospects’,” she mentioned.
The first obstacle was overcoming the biggest barrier to EV adoption: range anxiety.
In focus groups, Zhang said most customers realised they typically needed less than 200 miles for one trip. The cheapest version of the Lightning model, the Pro SR, has a range of 230 miles, rising to 320 miles for more expensive versions.
Zhang, who owns a Lightning, recalled how she was able to drive her 18-year-old daughter on a 300-mile trip to her first semester of college with a brief stop to recharge on the way.
Towing was the other major barrier, as many potential customers feared the electric version would not have the same power as the petrol-fueled equivalent. Early customer reviews though, appear to have dismissed those concerns.
Its dual use as a back-up generator was a further bonus for buyers, Zhang said.
Those sceptical Ford employees were soon adding their names to waiting lists, including an engineer she said saved a wedding after a power outage by plugging in a Lightning.
New generation of eco-truckers
Ford has beaten competitors like Tesla’s Cybertruck to market, and with a starting price of $39,000 the Lightning is the cheapest electric truck available in the US – nearly half the price of the Rivian R1T.
As well as slowly convincing drivers to go electric, Zhang said the plug-in F-150 is winning over a new generation of more environmentally conscious, and diverse, drivers.
“I might say at this level the shopper profile is dramatically youthful. It’s in states like California and New York that we usually do not promote full-measurement vehicles,” Ford CEO James Farley said on an earnings call in April.
Its recognition will come as a aid to Ford following its $1 billion investment in the truck and hiring thousands of employees to get the vehicle into production.
“The significance of the F-150 Lightning in fashionable automotive manufacturing can’t be overstated,” said the AAA’s Brannon.
“The F-150 has constantly been one of the crucial widespread automobiles within the U.S for a few years – the electrification of this mannequin represents a significant step within the mass manufacturing and adoption of electric automobiles.”
He added: “These patrons will vocalize their experiences whether or not they’re constructive or unfavorable, which could have a big impression on convincing others whether or not or not to contemplate an electric car for their subsequent car buy.”