In a Munro Live video, Munro & Associates’s CEO Sandy Munro and its President Cory Steuben talked with Ford’s CEO Jim Farley, F-150 Lightning Chief Engineer Linda Zhang and Chief EV and Digital Systems Officer Doug Field about the challenges of developing the F-150 Lightning electric pickup, and Ford’s current projects.
A Ford unit established to develop EVs called Team Edison faced an early challenge. “We had people who weren’t sure that an electric F-150 would work, and if it did, if it was less profitable, why would we want to sell a lot of them? And we had a lot of skepticism about the range,” said Farley. “I think the first range estimate we did was like a hundred miles. And that was with the old carryover frame and we weren’t problem-solving. It was just like ‘oh it would be a hundred miles, it would be like a Focus electric, why?’”
Zhang described how Ford overcame the challenge. “I think that the skepticism was definitely something that we had to overcome, and part of what we did to really overcome that is just demonstrate with prototyping that this vehicle was something completely different. It can do all the things that current trucks can do [including] towing…and that’s partly why we did that train tow demonstration a while back, is really to show that it can do that.”
Another challenge Zhang describes is the motor. “At one point in the program we did have to resize the motor. And I think that was probably the biggest technical issue that we ran into. And this was just to make sure that from a towing and more of a durability and longevity perspective that we weren’t going to run into issues.”
Drive unit components weren’t the only challenges in developing the F-150 Lightning. “The difficulty is that we didn’t really understand in the case of Lightning, how attractive the non-EV propulsion parts of the vehicle we’re going to be—the frunk, the Pro-Power onboard, those kind of things have really propelled the vehicle into like a different space” says Farley. “So the propulsion system is one thing, but what we’re learning is if we can hack the vehicle for other value like a new electric architecture where we can ship software to the car and the other features, the reasoning for the customers to switch changes from just a rational propulsion,” says Farley.
The topic of Ford’s current projects also came up. When Munro asked if Ford had thought about or discussed EV-owner support for the Tesla charging port becoming the standard, Field said: “We think about everything. But one of the biggest priorities we’re focusing on right now is charging. And I think we take the responsibility for good charging experiences really heavily. I tell the team it’s not just that you gave a bad experience about Ford. You gave a bad experience about EVs and that’s a really big deal. So we have a very high gain on charging experience and we’re working really hard to figure out all the things we can do in public charging to make it better and we’ll consider everything, including that.”
Field also talked about Ford offering a broader range of chargers. “And in the commercial space, we’re starting to do heavier-duty equipment that we actually sell and provide to commercial customers.”
Ford is also working on its in-house software. “But maybe the most important vertical integration right now you can’t see…is software,” says Field. “There is such a thing as a software factory. And the traditional auto industry has taken their software as part of hardware and transplanted it to the vehicle. So one of my biggest focuses on vertical integration is really the software factory and getting that up and running for Ford.”
Source: Munro Live