Meet the Chief Engineer of the New All-Electric Ford F-150
May 21, 2021
Linda Zhang arrived in America as a third-grader knowing only the letters A through H, which she learned during her plane ride from China, according to The Exponent.
“I remember flying for the first time and also riding in a car for the first time, all on that trip,” 44-year-old Zhang of Canton, Michigan explained.
“Sitting in the back seat of that car that took me from Chicago O’Hare to West Lafayette (Indiana)—where my father taught as a (graduate” student at Purdue University…it was the coolest ride of my life. That car wasn’t ours. It was borrowed to pick us up,” she said. “It was not a luxury car. But I thought, ‘Wow, this is like a carriage.’ That was probably the first time I fell in love with the automobile and the America Dream,” Zhang stated to The Exponent.
Zhang spent the entire summer watching Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow. As a determined 8-year-old originally born in Jinan, China, she wanted to move past Mandarin and into English. By Christmas of that year, Zhang was fluent in her new language.
“My parents treated me like I could do anything,” she stated. “You are you and you can conquer anything if that’s what you want to do.”
Zhang’s passion for automobiles was compounded by her television show choices.
“In ‘Batman,’ the car did really cool things. In ‘Knight Rider,’ I really loved KITT,” the artificially intelligent car used to fight crime,” said Zhang. “And ‘MacGyver’ was all about problem-solving, finding creative solutions with engineering skills and applied physics.”
Fast-forward a few decades later, Zhang is now leading a team of hundreds of engineers designing an all-electric version of the bestselling pickup truck in America, the F-150. Although Japan’s Toyota Motors has the bestselling mid-size truck (Tacoma), SUV (Rav-4), sedan (Camry), compact (Corolla), and luxury brand (Lexus), they could never quite take the full-size pickup truck market from Ford.
The new all-electric F-150 is capable of towing 10 double-decker rail cars and 42 2019-model year F-150s, weighing more than 1 million pounds, according to The Exponent.
“Linda is the latest in a long line of chief engineers who have done extraordinary things to the truck. She did not parachute in. She’s been shepherding this project since it came out of the research lab. She’s been everywhere, every day overseeing this F-150,” stated Ford North America product communications manager, Mike Levine.
The truck took an estimated three years to develop since its inception.
Zhang is the daughter of an engineer and started off at the Ford College Graduate program at the age of 19 and has worked in manufacturing, finance, strategy and engineering, most recently on the Ford Escape, Kuga, Explorer and F-150. She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, a master’s degree in computer engineering and an MBA, all from the University of Michigan.