An EV ‘Lightning Round’ with Ford’s Farley, Field and Zhang

Ford execs deliver a new F-150 Lightning to ‘teardown specialist Sandy Munro then stay for a video interview on Ford’s EV future.

With its first full teardown of a Ford F-150 Lightning well underway, competitive-analysis specialists Munro & Associates recently purchased a second Lightning for long-term analysis. (Ford)

With the industry’s first full teardown of a Ford F-150 Lightning well underway, competitive-analysis specialists Munro & Associates recently purchased a second Lightning for long-term analysis. The new white electric pickup was delivered in person by an elite team: Ford CEO Jim Farley, EV chief Doug Field, and Lightning chief engineer Linda Zhang.

Ford Motor Co. and Munro & Assoc. execs with F-150 Lightning at Munro HQ in Auburn Hills, MI. From left, Ford EV boss Doug Field; Sandy Munro; Ford CEO Jim Farley; F-150 Lightning chief engineer Linda Zhang, and Munro & Assoc. president Corey Steuben. (Munro & Assoc.)

CEO and founder Sandy Munro and company president Cory Steuben hosted the Ford execs for a round-table video interview within the Lightning teardown area, not far from where a rival Rivian R1T is undergoing a similar program. The 50-minute YouTube video contains insights into the Lightning’s development and Ford’s electrification strategy. It also marks the first public interview of Field, who returned to Ford in September 2021 following high-level engineering roles at Apple and Tesla.

Highlights of Munro’s conversation with Farley, Field and Zhang include:

  • Ford having produced the $19,000 Maverick Hybrid, Munro asked, “where is the $25,000 EV?” Said Field, “I came to Ford with the excitement that this could be how electric gets into a much broader population than early adopters. And along with the electric propulsion it was going to be software. The good news is, software doesn’t add a lot of cost to a car. You can make a $25,000 vehicle to be a great experience, if you’re paying attention to the digital. The challenge is in the cost of the propulsion systems but we’re changing that fast. We want to be in that [$25,000] space; we have some very aggressive goals.”

  • Added Farley: “Our ‘fitness’ as a company is going to be at all price points.”

  • The popularity of Lightning’s “frunk” (front trunk), bi-directional charging capability, and standard premium infotainment system have proven to Farley and Field that electrification is about “more than just a propulsion change,” he said. “The burden is now on us” to affect the transition to EVs.

  • Lightning was one of the key reasons Field left Apple to return to Ford. Electrifying North America’s most popular vehicle “is a really good recruiter” for the automaker, he said, adding that he thinks of the truck as “my generator…a mobile energy source.”

  • The program’s biggest technology issue was realizing the original traction motor had to be resized—essentially over-engineering it to ensure the robust duty cycle F-Series customers expect, Zhang noted.

  • Munro asked if Ford would support industry adoption of the Tesla vehicle charging hardware to replace the ubiquitous ‘CCS’ hardware that was developed under SAE J1772. Munro argued that the Tesla hardware is lighter, less costly, and easier to use than the CCS. “A bad charging experience gives a bad experience not only to Ford customers but also to EVs in general, and that’s a very big deal,” Field replied cautiously. He said Ford “will consider everything” to make public charging better.

  • Farley noted that roughly half of Ford’s E-Transit commercial customers are purchasing Ford’s own charging equipment. “We want to have an all-in solution, even for non-Ford vehicles,” he said. “We believe most [commercial EV] fleets will be multi-make, not just Ford.”

  • The amount of work that still needs to be done to improve charging “is the biggest lesson I’ve learned in this [early EV] cycle,” Farley said.