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Woman Who Got The F-150 Lightning on The Road

Ford's F-150 has been the best-selling truck in the US for 45 consecutive years, and the most popular vehicle overall for almost as long.

Linda Zhang standing next to Ford's F-150 Lightning
Linda Zhang led the team behind Ford's first all-electric version of its best-selling F-150 truck. Credit: Ford

While getting drivers of passenger cars to go electric has been reasonably simple, convincing buyers that an electric truck can match their gas-powered equivalents in range, payload, towing capacity, durability, and reliability is much more of a challenge. The woman rising to that challenge for Ford is Linda Zhang, the chief engineer of Ford's electric version of the F-150 called the Lightning.

There have been 200,000 orders for the truck and deliveries have very recently started. The market's enthusiasm for the electric truck convinced Ford to almost double production to 150,000 a year - but buyers still face a three-year wait to get behind the wheel.

So how have Zhang and her team been able to convince truck-loving Americans to go electric?

The first obstacle was the universal 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, so that stat reassures most potential buyers. But, if greater range is required, there's a more expensive model that gets drivers to 320 miles.

Towing was the other major barrier, as many potential customers feared the electric version would not have the same power as the fossil-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.

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 would say at this point the customer profile is dramatically younger. It's in states like California and New York that we normally don't sell full-size trucks," Ford CEO James Farley says.

Its popularity will come as a relief to Ford following its $1 billion investment in the truck and hiring thousands of employees to get the vehicle into production. It will also come as a relief to the planet as these giant gas-guzzlers are replaced with electric models.


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