Ford engineer details ‘mythbusting’ challenges in bringing electric F-150 to market

Ford Motor Company F-150 Chief Nameplate Engineer Linda Zhang joins Yahoo Finance Live to break down the features in the automaker’s new F-150 Lightning electric truck.

Video Transcript

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AKIKO FUJITA: Ford is charging ahead in the EV space, launching production of its all-electric pickup today. The F-150 Lightning is leading the pack in what is expected to be a very competitive market, with Rivian, General Motors, also Tesla working on their own electric trucks. Joining us to discuss is for Ford Motor Company’s F-150 chief engineer. Linda Zhang joining us from the factory. We’ve also got our very own Pras Subramanian here in studio.

Linda, this is such an exciting space to be watching right now. But you’ve got the first mover advantage. How significant is that going to be when you consider the ramp up that’s about to happen?

LINDA ZHANG: Oh, I think that’s going to be absolutely great for us. We’re so excited to be able to launch the F-150 Lightning here from the historic La Rouge site. And we’re basically taking an iconic vehicle, best-selling truck in America for 45 years straight, and building on that wonderful, strong foundation but elevating the vehicle even further with electrification to really jump ahead and move the truck into the future with some really great features that can be only brought to our customers with electrification.

First off, because it’s F-series, our customers can expect it to be Built Ford Tough with reliability, durability, the capability of being able to tow and haul. But on top of that, this electrification space and being able to leverage not just the performance of the vehicle– I mean, some astonishing numbers with 775 foot pounds of near instant torque, 563 horsepower, and 0 to 60 in mid four seconds, but also the fact that underneath the vehicle, we’re able to leverage the battery to be able to use as power generation for our customers either in their home or on the go.

And then taking that space that used to house the engine and making it a great lockable storage for our customers with the Mega Power Frunk, frunk meaning front trunk. And with this space, it’s big enough for 400 liters of volume with size aplenty for lots of suitcases, two full sets of golf clubs, and, because it’s a truck, 400 pounds of payload right up front in the frunk.

Pras Subramanian: Hey Linda. Pray here. So what were some of the big engineering challenges for you making this truck, especially at that $40,000 price range?

LINDA ZHANG: Yeah, so you’re exactly right. I mean, the pricing on the vehicle is astonishing. It’s really excellent. And I think we’re in a really good position to be able to do that for our customers because we’re leveraging a lot of the scale within Ford Motor Company, giving our customers some of the great things that they can expect with the truck , because it is F-150.

But with the electrification came some challenges. So one of them was really just myth-busting in a way to be able to show our customers that EVs can be tough. This is the first-ever electric vehicle truck. And with that, we needed to be able to provide to truck customers that it is capable, durable, and reliable for them to be able to get the job done.

So that payload actually we’ve increased over 22,000 on some of these variants. And then not only that, the towing of being able to credibly tow up to 10,000 pounds, those are some of the things that we really had to work through to really, really capture our audiences’ not just hearts, but minds as well, that this truck can be tough.

Pras Subramanian: So Jim Farley said that Ford has enough batteries, lithium ion batteries and chips, to actually make these trucks into the next couple of years, saying that 150,000 vehicles are going to come out by 2023. How do you as an engineer sort of make sure that happens? And can you alleviate situations where you do have component shortages?

LINDA ZHANG: Yeah, so Jim is exactly right. We have such a great team. And part of the benefit here is the fact that we have the entire Ford Motor Company behind us really helping us to secure parts, whether it’s chips or anything else, and making sure that we have those prioritized for this vehicle. So we’re really excited about the volume.

And we know with the really great demand on this vehicle– we had over 200,000 reservations– that we actually had a pause toward the end of last year. And that’s partly why we’ve doubled capacity to be able to get to 150,000 units per year running average by the time we get to mid-’23. So super-excited about being able to do that.

And we have a good view on parts shortages to make that happen.

AKIKO FUJITA: Linda, I know you’re an engineer, but I do have to ask you about the infrastructure. I’m thinking about who’s driving the F-150 Ice Car right now. I mean, these are not city cars. These are not in areas that have a massive infrastructure in place for charging stations. How much of this mass adaptation is really contingent on that? And how quickly do you think that will scale up?

LINDA ZHANG: Well, I think we’re actually in a very pivotal point within the industry where the technology of the batteries, the technology of the vehicle, as well as infrastructure and customer demand is really at a head at a perfect position for us to be able to launch this vehicle.

From an infrastructure perspective, part of what we are expecting for most electric vehicle owners is that people may have charging at home. I know for me personally, I have a Mach-E. And one of the things I actually love about the vehicle is the fact that I wake up every morning with a full range.

And with the Level 2 charging that we actually provide, it’s an 80-amp charger with the extended range vehicles. Our customers can charge overnight and expect they’ll have full range for all day to be able to go about doing whatever it is that they might want to do. And with that full range, they can actually even power a house for up to three days comfortably and even 10 days if they monitor what they’re using.

So there’s a lot of energy. That’s just an example how much energy is in this vehicle.

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, Linda, I know the process is itching to take a test drive in the Lightning, which you’re going to do next week, right?

Pras Subramanian: Hopefully yeah.

AKIKO FUJITA: Appreciate your time today, Linda Zhang, Ford Motor Company F-150 chief engineer. And our thanks to Pras too.

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