Electrifying the Pickup Truck

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Linda Zhang is the pioneering chief engineer behind Ford’s revolutionary new all-electric pickup truck—successfully making believers out of many truck-loving electric vehicle skeptics. For her pioneering leadership, she was named as one of USA TODAY's Women of the Year (2022) and featured on the front cover of TIME Magazine’s Climate Issue.

In this episode of the Create the Future podcast, we speak to Linda about the vehicle electrification journey, explore her beginnings in the Ford College Graduate program, and discuss how she applies her electrical and computer engineering degrees to her work. We touch her parental engineering inspirations, hear why aspiring engineers should consider working in the automotive industry, and learn why it’s important to “be happy”.

Linda joins us from ‘The Engineers: The Future of Cars’ event by the BBC World Service and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition 1851.

Episode highlights

  • “EVs today, or in the past, haven't been known as a tough and durable. They’re often seen more of a eco-vehicle. So we had to work through a lot of that. An electric truck can be just as tough and in many cases tougher. And I think it was probably our biggest challenge at the very beginning of the programme, really trying to bust that myth.”
  • “Charging, in a way, is an infrastructure issue. With more people adopting EVs, I think that infrastructure will increase. We're also seeing most automakers are using compatible charging, so that you can charge different vehicles at the same chargers. It is definitely a very important piece of the EV adoption. And it's something that we need to work together across the industry on.”
  • “Well for me, I'm an electrical engineer, so I always loved electricity—probably more than mechanical engineering—ever since college. So I am so excited about an electric vehicle being out there.”
  • “I fell in love with the car when I was eight years old, when I moved to America, got off the plane, it was the first car ride I took. And it was, in a way, very emotional for me because it was basically taking me to a new world. And I think that has been something that I've carried my entire life.”
  • “Engineering is really all about curiosity. Being able to look at something and be curious about how, why, what, and then trying to make it even better, every little bit, trying to improve it over time.”
  • “For aspiring engineers out there, if you have a passion for technology, or how things work, or how to make something better, engineering is the right field for you. We're always looking for great engineers in the automotive industry, particularly as we head through this EV revolution. I would welcome any aspiring engineers to look at this field, it is really a really great one as we look toward the future and what we can do to make the world a better place.”
  • “We use magnets for our three phase permanent magnet motors, there's definitely a lot that goes into the motor. We need to make sure we have very strong magnets to ensure that we get the power need out of it […] magnets are what help the motors turn and spin to generate that torque and power for the vehicle.”
  • “I'm a pretty positive person. Whether it's what you do in a career or life in general, I think you have to go after what makes you happy. Otherwise it makes things feel a lot longer. If you're happy, I feel like time just flies by. I'm having a great time.”

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