This article is part of TechXchange: Women in Science and Engineering

This article appeared in Machine design and has been published here with permission.

What you will learn:

  • Linda Zhang, chief nameplate engineer behind Ford’s all-electric F-150 Lightning Pro, has a 25-year career with the automaker.
  • When the F-150 Lightning Pro launches in 2022, it will come with special features, including a two-way charger, an inverter, and a home management system that keeps the lights on for about three days.
  • The all-electric pickup can hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, making it faster than its gasoline counterpart.
  • Emission-free electric cars come with a promise to reduce their carbon footprint. Ford announces more than $ 11.5 billion in investments in electric vehicles through 2022.

There is an overlap between the story and what matters to Linda Zhang and the Ford Motor Company’s priorities for its all-electric F-150 Lighting Pro pickup truck. Zhang’s career and the success of the electrification project are inextricably linked.

Zhang was only 19 when she joined the automotive company after graduating in electrical engineering in 1996. “For a long time, I kept it very quiet because I was always afraid people would think that I was too young or too immature, ”Zhang said.

Today, leading the charge to ensure the reliability and ingenuity of Ford’s best-selling pickup truck for 44 years, those doubts have been dispelled.

As the chief nameplate engineer behind Ford’s all-electric F-150 Lightning Pro, Zhang’s role is to lead the iconic truck’s planning and electrification effort. In a nutshell, she sets up the product of success by bringing everyone together. “I work with everyone on the team, whether it’s the engineers who design the parts, the designers who make the beautiful products, or the manufacturing team,” she said.

% {[ data-embed-type=”image” data-embed-id=”60f1dd2ca2b40cdf638b45b7″ data-embed-element=”span” data-embed-size=”640w” data-embed-alt=”Linda Zhang, chief engineer of the Ford F-150, shows the capability of a prototype all-electric F-150 by towing 10 double-decker rail cars and 42 2019-model year F-150s, weighing more than a million pounds.” data-embed-src=”https://img.electronicdesign.com/files/base/ebm/electronicdesign/image/2021/07/All_Electric_F_150_09.60ef1fdcab441.60f1dd2bc4cca.png?auto=format&fit=max&w=1440″ data-embed-caption=”Linda Zhang, chief engineer of the Ford F-150, shows the capability of a prototype all-electric F-150 by towing 10 double-decker rail cars and 42 2019-model year F-150s, weighing more than a million pounds.” data-embed-credit=”Ford” ]}%

Being able to strategize on what’s going on under the hood of the first all-electric F-Series workhorse in time for deployment in 2022 is not only a rare opportunity, but being the first also allows for innovation in space. relatively untapped electrification. “As more companies commit to becoming carbon neutral, they will expect electrical products that can easily fit into their operations,” said Jim Farley, President and CEO from Ford Motor Company, in a press release.

For Zhang and his team, the challenge of delivering a zero-emission pickup is an exciting achievement. There were those who were skeptical of its potential, since electric is generally not equated with capable. “One of the major turning points for us has been our ability to demonstrate this ability not only with basic acceleration, but also with difficult things like towing and hauling,” said Zhang, who sat at the steering wheel of a prototype in 2019 to tow 10 doubles. -bridge wagons (weighing over one million pounds):

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F-150 fans will remember that the stunt could not go through skeptical gearboxes, who pointed out that the illusion was made possible by the principle of rolling resistance coefficients. In other words, the force and friction required to tow freight trains 1,000 feet was considerably less than that which would have been required to tow vehicles on road tires. Show aside, the demonstration showed that an electric truck had the capacity to haul “well beyond the published capacity of any production truck,” Ford noted.

When the F-150 Lightning Pro launches in 2022, it will come with special features. “Providing content such as smart backup power will prove to be a great pleasure as it has solved a huge problem for customers,” said Zhang. Drivers will be able to opt for the two-way Ford Charge Station Pro, along with an inverter and home management system that will function as a 9.6kW power source that keeps the lights on for about three days.

Then there’s the Mega Power Frunk, which is essentially a waterproof front trunk with a 400lb payload, and it comes with four 120-volt AC power outlets and two USB ports. It is also equipped with a one-way drain for quick cleaning.

Speed ​​and range

As important as the unveiling of the F-150 Lightning Pro is in changing the electric vehicle segment, the lofty goal of the auto industry is to overhaul combustion engine factories and go electric. GM, Jaguar, Bentley, Cadillac, Mini and Volvo are among those promising all-electric production by 2030.

Change signals measurable progress. Emission-free electric cars come with a promise to reduce their carbon footprint. Ford is announcing more than $ 11.5 billion in investments in electric vehicles through 2022, including the zero-emission Mustang Mach-E and the all-electric F-150. The company boasts that it is on track to power its manufacturing plants with 100% locally sourced renewable energy by 2035, with the ultimate goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

However, going electric involves much more than going green. Consider the shock of the stickers: EVs cost more than equivalent gasoline cars, despite advancements in technology. A partial explanation is that automakers spend billions to design new models of electric vehicles, but initial sales are only a fraction of traditional car sales, analysts report. Recovering their investments will take time. Electric vehicles made up about 2% of the US new car market and only make up about 17% of the world’s total stock of 10.2 million electric vehicles, according to the Pew Research Center. Ford reports that the F-150 Lightning will start at $ 39,974, but can be optional up to $ 90,000.

Another consideration is that range anxiety (fearing that the electric vehicle will not have enough charge to reach the destination) has long been a barrier to the adoption of the electric vehicle on a large scale. On average, Americans drive about 30 miles a day, according to the AAA Foundation for Road Safety and the Urban Institute. Most electric vehicles can travel over 200 miles on a full charge, while gasoline-powered vehicles have ranges of 400-500 miles.

% {[ data-embed-type=”image” data-embed-id=”60f1dda1af367135008b49bc” data-embed-element=”span” data-embed-size=”640w” data-embed-alt=”Charging the F-150 Lightning. The vehicle offers two battery options: a standard-range battery targeting 230 miles of EPA-estimated range and an extended-range battery targeting 300 miles of EPA-estimated range.” data-embed-src=”https://img.electronicdesign.com/files/base/ebm/electronicdesign/image/2021/07/Charging.60f1dda08d514.png?auto=format&fit=max&w=1440″ data-embed-caption=”Charging the F-150 Lightning. The vehicle offers two battery options: a standard-range battery targeting 230 miles of EPA-estimated range and an extended-range battery targeting 300 miles of EPA-estimated range.” data-embed-credit=”Ford” ]}%

Could those anxieties fade with offerings like the F-150 Lightning? Target 563 horsepower and 775 lb-ft. Of near instantaneous torque, the pickup offers options of a standard range battery targeting 230 miles of EPA estimated range or an extended range battery targeting 300 miles of EPA estimated range. The vehicle’s intelligent range system uses an adaptive monitoring system to calculate the battery life needed to complete a trip. The data then syncs with cloud-based features so drivers can plan routes and monitor the load.

“We take advantage of the battery to provide electrical power to our customers, whether on the go with our [four 120-volt electrical outlets onboard] so they can plug things in one outlet at a time, or be it at home, allowing the truck to serve as a back-up generator for the entire home ecosystem in the event of a power failure, ”explained Zhang. “Electrification can bring many other capabilities, and that’s what we’re doing. “

The all-electric pickup can hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, making it faster than its gasoline counterpart. Electric vehicles provide instant power and there is no gear to change. President Joe Biden realized this when he took the opportunity to test drive the F-150 Lighting Pro during an unscheduled stop at Ford’s Rogue Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan on May 18.

% {[ data-embed-type=”image” data-embed-id=”60f1dd752daee233008b49ab” data-embed-element=”span” data-embed-size=”640w” data-embed-alt=”President Joe Biden and Linda Zhang, Ford’s chief engineer, F-150 Lightning, with the all-new, all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning.” data-embed-src=”https://img.electronicdesign.com/files/base/ebm/electronicdesign/image/2021/07/ROUGE_ELECTRIC_SKV_7345.60ef1fdcbb776.60f1dd74e4bd4.png?auto=format&fit=max&w=1440″ data-embed-caption=”President Joe Biden and Linda Zhang, Ford’s chief engineer, F-150 Lightning, with the all-new, all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning.” data-embed-credit=”Sam VarnHagen/Ford” ]}%

Power, value and capacity

Without a doubt, along the way to meet the standards and thoroughness that drivers expect from the F-150 series, a few issues had to be addressed. For example, Zhang and his team had difficulty sizing the batteries, motors, and cooling system when they started working on the product. “We’ve had some failures there, especially with hard work like the climb,” she said.

Motivated by her team’s accomplishments, Zhang said she was excited about the future of electrification. In his view, the F-150 electrification project is not only an inflection point for his employer, but also a tipping point for the adoption of EVs for the industry.

The bipartite infrastructure framework approved by President Biden includes plans to build a nationwide network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers along highways and in rural and underprivileged communities.

Whatever the gains, Ford and Zhang both have their work cut out for them. The necessary infrastructure, whether it’s home charging or public charging, will remain a challenge for early EV adoption.

% {[ data-embed-type=”image” data-embed-id=”60f1ddd4a2b40cf0638b45b2″ data-embed-element=”span” data-embed-size=”640w” data-embed-alt=”A prototype Ford F-150 Lightning undergoes salt and mud bath wash to test long-term exposure of salt and mud on the truck’s military-grade aluminum alloy body.” data-embed-src=”https://img.electronicdesign.com/files/base/ebm/electronicdesign/image/2021/07/BFT_Testing_20_V1.60f1ddd3b674b.png?auto=format&fit=max&w=1440″ data-embed-caption=”A prototype Ford F-150 Lightning undergoes salt and mud bath wash to test long-term exposure of salt and mud on the truck’s military-grade aluminum alloy body.” data-embed-credit=”Ford” ]}%

“We’ve done a lot of really good work trying to mitigate [charging concerns] with the household chargers that come with the product, ”Zhang said. The deployment of the fleet next year will be supported by a network of 644 certified centers for electric vehicles across the United States

“My work here is not yet finished,” said Zhang. “We are still in the final stages of testing and verification and we also have a very important manufacturing start-up phase coming up with the truck. So my plan is to stay with this truck throughout this next big phase. “

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Fortunately, the project takes place in a white space, so Zhang and his team have the freedom to innovate and try different things. “Whenever you try to innovate, you always get a certain level of failure,” Zhang explained. “This failure also helps us learn and with this level of innovation, you can’t be afraid to fail. But it’s not really the failure that matters. Instead, it’s how we react to it that matters most.


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