Nothing on wheels says America just like the Ford F-150. So electrifying the best-selling automobile in America was no small problem. The duty fell to Linda Zhang, who first rode in a automotive as an 8-year-old after emigrating from China to america. 

Zhang grew as much as turn out to be {an electrical} engineer at Ford. Just lately, the electrical F-150 Lightning, for which she is the chief engineer, has generated fairly a little bit of buzz. President Joe Biden took it for a spin in Might after Zhang gave him a private walk-through. “This sucker’s fast,” Biden informed a pack of reporters.

It’s additionally versatile. The pickup can energy your own home in a blackout or serve up a tailgate get together from its “mega-power frunk,” a cavernous compartment up entrance the place the engine would usually be.

Greater than 150,000 potential consumers have paid for nonbinding reservations, together with many who’ve by no means owned a truck, or a Ford. Because of the reception, the carmaker is doubling capability at its manufacturing facility in Dearborn, Mich., earlier than the pickup launches subsequent spring.

Zhang, 44, says your entire expertise has been “surreal,” particularly the assembly with the president. She spoke with Bloomberg in regards to the pickup and her private journey. The interview has been edited for size and readability.

Why do you suppose so many non-traditional consumers are signing up for the F-150 Lightning?

We’re offering the shopper with performance that they will actually solely get from electrification. With the ability to use that energy from the automobile to both present backup energy for his or her residence, or at a tailgate, or at a job web site, or at a camp web site — these are cool functionalities that you just’ve actually by no means had earlier than in any automobile.

Usually, gasoline financial savings are a chief promoting level for an electrical automobile. Have been you making an attempt transcend that?

It’s positively not a fuel-economy story. This truck just isn’t about that. You’re not going to alter hearts and minds with only a compliance, fuel-economy resolution. Folks really need their vans to be nice instruments, whether or not it’s for the weekend job or to tow a ship to their lake home. We needed to give them one thing they’d fall in love with and be enthusiastic about, not only a battery on wheels.

How did you give you the thought for the Mega Energy Frunk?

Frunk just isn’t essentially a brand new concept. What’s distinctive for us is, what can you do with this frunk? We did a bunch of clinics with our clients. We began asking, what else might you do from a piece and a enjoyable perspective? They’d say, “I’d love to make use of this space as a bin for drinks” — pop, in fact. “What a few plug so we are able to drain it?” A few of our clients informed us flat-out that if they will match golf golf equipment in there, they’d maintain them of their truck 100% of the time.

What was it like, as somebody who immigrated right here as a toddler from China, to be sitting with the president of america, giving him a personal preview of your truck?

It was surreal. I used to be actually honored to have the ability to characterize the corporate, to have the ability to present him the truck and get fast suggestions from him. Wanting again on shifting right here once I was 8 years previous and driving in a automotive for the primary time and rising up within the Midwest, it’s fairly cool.

Inform us about that first automotive trip whenever you arrived within the U.S. in 1985.

My dad was at school at Purdue getting his doctorate in civil engineering, and he borrowed a buddy’s automotive to select us up from the O’Hare airport in Chicago. I nonetheless bear in mind it was darkish and a three-hour drive. Simply seeing the lights on the street, and seeing how clear the whole lot was and simply sitting behind that automobile, it felt like I used to be in a fairy story.

What model of automotive was it?

I don’t know as a result of I didn’t actually know my alphabet then and I positively didn’t know cursive. I simply bear in mind it was this pine-green coloration. And it was superior. It felt like a carriage.

Did that gentle a spark in you that put you on the trail to turn out to be an automotive engineer?

Oh, yeah, for positive. That was positively an inspirational second for me. I seen the automotive as simply such a chunk of know-how. It was the primary time I rode in it, so for me it’d as nicely have been a spaceship. It simply had all these lights and knobs. I didn’t go to sleep as a result of the adrenaline was flowing and I used to be simply so excited. I bear in mind it distinctly.