October 27, 2021

Automotive Mogul

Automatic Road Vehicle

How the Ford F-150 Lightning’s Chief Engineer Linda Zhang Brought the World an Electric Pickup

How the Ford F-150 Lightning’s Chief Engineer Linda Zhang Brought the World an Electric Pickup

If you might be thinking about on purchasing a new pickup, the Ford F-150 is unquestionably a thing that crossed your head. It’s just one of Ford’s most essential automobiles and alone is far more rewarding than Nike and McDonald’s. Shortly, the merchandise line will grow even far more, supplying the all-electric powered F-150 Lightning alongside a sea of Detroit-crafted metal sitting on vendor lots—and you have Linda Zhang to thank for that.

Zhang is the main engineer powering the all-electric F-150 Lightning. Her 25-year career at Ford and qualifications as an electrical engineer has allowed her to operate on numerous merchandise you encounter on a every day foundation. This contains the Explorer and Escape, as effectively as the a variety of powertrains nested less than the hoods of different Ford merchandise. But her ties to the brand name run deeper than what you can see: The Blue Oval has been a component of her household prolonged just before she walked by means of the company doors for the 1st time.

When she was just 8 years aged, Zhang stepped off a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. She spoke Mandarin and her expertise of the English language was confined to the few letters she realized on the aircraft ride—her to start with airplane journey, ever—from China. Zhang was an immigrant with her father, who would be educating in a graduate assistantship at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

[May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Here at The Drive, we’re celebrating it by lifting up and highlighting AAPI voices in the automotive space. Our hope is that in driving visibility, we can help make the car community an even more welcoming space—to convince those who perhaps have not always felt like they belonged that they absolutely do belong here. Diversity in perspectives and backgrounds only strengthens the group as a whole. It is why representation matters.]

Exterior of the terminal, her father had borrowed a car or truck to push the a few hours from O’Hare to Indiana. The back again door opened and Zhang plopped herself down into the seat of an automobile for the very initial time.

“That was the 1st time I was ever in a auto and it was just beautiful,” Zhang claims in the course of an interview with The Push. “I try to remember it was dim outside but there have been tons of lights from the streets. All the things seemed so new and so interesting. And just to be in a car—it was not even our automobile, it was a automobile my father borrowed to occur get us—it was just wonderful. I felt like I was using in a carriage, like the princess tale just about.”

She quickly turned fluent in English, bolstered by well-known Tv set shows like Reading through Rainbow and Sesame Road, in accordance to the Detroit No cost Press. Shortly, Zhang grew to become indoctrinated in American tradition. She learned about Coca-Cola and chocolate milk, as very well as how the tradition iconized vehicles. Especially, she remembered becoming drawn to the Batmobile and the Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo.

Later on, Zhang’s father commenced doing work for Ford. It was the very first corporation he was with after Perdue and would come to be critical to Zhang’s appreciation of the Blue Oval later on in lifestyle. He worked in the glass division ahead of transferring onto tasks that concerned researching powertrains and transmissions. Zhang usually uncovered his perform appealing, and even though attending the University of Michigan, she took element in the Solar Car and Baja racing teams—both of which ended up closely supported by OEMs.

“There is a ton of passion about motor vehicles, all around racing, and about transferring,” she suggests. “Cars are just exciting.”

When Zhang graduated with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering in 1996, she quickly grew to become a next-technology Ford employee.

“I came straight to Ford out of [the University of Michigan] and just stayed below,” Zhang suggests. “The corporation has even presented me additional education because then. It gave me the opportunity to take night courses. I acquired my master’s as very well as my MBA to check out to get myself broadened even far more with the organization and computer facet of issues.”

During her time at Ford, Zhang has worked on many merchandise traces. She had a hand in equally the structure and production features of the Ford Explorer and Escape/Kuga and experienced a chance to work with Ford powertrains as well. But her real enthusiasm has often been electrification.

In the mid-2000s (shortly soon after the discontinuation of the Ford Ranger EV, which competed from the Chevrolet S-10), Zhang grew to become associated in strategizing and envisioning what it would take for Ford to introduce products and solutions that relied on electrification. This meant searching at manufacturing, engineering, and even possible partnerships, moreover determining what the planet would look like infrastructure-clever.

So when she was supplied the prospect to to lead the F-150 Lightning nameplate as her first, real electrification venture in Ford, Zhang graciously acknowledged.