Meet the woman behind Ford’s all-electric F-150 Lightning: ‘Pursue what you love’

Linda Zhang started working at Ford when she was 19 years old

Hear from the woman behind Ford's all-electric F-150.

DETROIT – The all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning might be one of the most anticipated new vehicles in a very long time.

It’s so popular, even President Joe Biden had to test drive it. But there’s something you might not know. The engineer in charge of bringing the Lightning to life is a woman whose story is pretty incredible.

Linda Zhang was just 19 years old when she started at Ford. That was 25 years ago.

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Zhang describes the first time she set foot on American soil, she was only eight years old. At the time she spoke very little English and only knew her alphabet up to the letter h. She said she learned that on the plane. She learned fast though and followed in her father’s footsteps.

She worked her way up the engineering ranks at Ford and ultimately became the chief engineer charged with electrifying the best-selling pickup truck in the world, the Ford F-150 Lightning.

“I’m just glad to be able to play a part in this truck,” Zhang said. “For me, there’s a lot of really great engineers, a lot of great employees throughout the company that’s been really involved in making this product. It’s great to be in the role that I’m in. Being able to see all of it, but I’m just one piece of a much bigger picture.”

The truck has 400 liters of volume and 400 pounds of payload. In addition to it being all-electric, the vehicle has so many new features.

The vehicle’s cabin is very spacious, and it features tons of technology with a beautiful 15-inch screen. It’s your average truck but with a twist.

Under the hood of the truck is a trunk. The engineer replaced the engine with storage space that fits two golf bags. If golf is not your game, underneath the flap is a tailgate that accommodates wet and dirty items. The tailgate has a drain inside to fill with ice.

The cabin also features electrical outlets that cold power a television, electrical pot, or your entire house if worse come to worse.

If that’s not impressive enough, the truck goes from zero to 60 in just under five seconds.

Zhang thinks that good friends Henry Ford and Thomas Edison would be excited at what she helped create.

“I think they would be excited,” Zhang said. “I mean, back in the day, Henry Ford actually looked at trying to electrify the Model T. So for us, we’re taking his dream and now with the technologies that we have, bringing it to like.”

Speaking of dreams; It’s a dream come true for Zhang. What she has accomplished in a very much male-dominated industry is impressive. But, it is not something she spends a lot of time thinking about.

“It’s kind of fun,” Zhang said. “I haven’t really thought about it too much. For me, it’s seeing a lot of the reactions out there has been really rewarding to know that I’m having an impact on little girls out there, and my advice would be to just pursue what you love, ‘cause that’s what I did. I love engineering, and I love business, and I love automotives, so for me it was just pursuing my dreams so you can do it too.”

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About the Authors:

Kimberly Gill joined the Local 4 News team in November 2014. She was named Personality of the Year in 2009 by the Ohio Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. She’s also a two-time Emmy winner.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.