Ford Truck Engineer Linda Zhang Explains Electric F-150 Plans

September 18, 2019 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

As Bollinger Motors, Tesla, Workhorse Group, Rivian and others work to get electric pickup trucks to market Ford isn’t sitting still.

Ford’s F-Series has dominated the pickup truck market for 42 years. The Dearborn, Mich., automaker won’t yield its position to new or advanced technology. The company plans to produce both hybrid and battery-electric versions of its top-selling F-150 pickup.

It recently demonstrated the potential capability of a prototype all-electric F-150 by towing 10 double-decker rail cars and 42 2019-model year F-150s for a combined weight of more than 1 million pounds.

No one expects the production version will need to pull such loads. A payload of several thousand pounds and towing capacity approaching 10,000 pounds is probably adequate for most electric F-150 uses.

ford-linda-Zhang

Linda Zhang, chief engineer of the Ford F-150. (Photo: Ford)

Trucks.com caught up with Linda Zhang, chief engineer of the Ford F-150, to find out what the recalcitrant automaker is willing to divulge about the electric truck. Here’s an edited version of that conversation.

Why an electric F-150?

Ford is investing quite a bit in electrification. You can add new capability, performance and features that will help the customer through electrification. We want to provide that power of choice in terms of propulsion for our customers.

But are customers asking for an electric F-150?

Our research indicates that customers are interested in an electrified full-size pickup. It will nicely complement the overall F-series, which is already the best-selling pickup in America.

How will you convince the skeptical that this is a real Ford truck?

We need to show that even though it is electric, this truck is built Ford-tough. It has to be powerful and it must tow. We will need to prove that we can get to that Ford-tough level that our customers expect and get from our trucks. We also will need to show them the unique performance of the all-electric capability.

When will the truck go on sale?

All I can say now is that it will be here in a few years and we will have a lot more information closer to the launch. The new F-150 hybrid goes on sale next year. (Darren Palmer, another Ford executive, said in a recent interview with Autocar that a “battery Ford F-150 will come before 2022.”)

All-Electric F-150 prototype.

All-electric F-150 prototype. (Photo: Ford)

How capable will it be?

One thing we were trying to show with our train demonstration is that the electric torque that comes from an electric motor gives you instant, significant torque and force that is great for towing. The electric motor and the lightweight aluminum body of our truck towed 10 double-decker freight cars with 42 F-150s loaded inside. The weight was nearly 1.3 million pounds. It was an extreme demonstration, but it showed the benefits of the instant torque from the electric motor.

Who are the customers — fleets or everyday truck buyers?

There will be a range of customers. We have heard from some of our fleet customers that they will be very interested in the power and capability of the truck. The hybrid coming out next year will have exportable power and that’s a big feature of interest to those fleet customers.

Do you look at the competition’s planned trucks?

We are focused on doing the best for our product and for our customers regardless of what others are saying or doing. We need to get our product through tough truck testing and meeting the needs of the customers.

Do you see a day when most pickup trucks are electric?

I don’t know. The customer base will want the range just as they have today. We have gas and diesel trucks. We are bringing out a hybrid next year. We have such a broad range of products for our customers. This will be an addition to the F-Series line up, but I don’t know if it will take its entire place.

Eileen Falkenberg-Hull November 21, 2019
There’s been a lot of speculation about Tesla’s promised electric pickup truck. Here’s what Trucks.com has found out about the truck Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised.

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