Unlike President Biden, I certainly do not consider myself a “car guy.” No way. I want a car that’s reliable, safe, with air conditioning for the summer and a heater for the winter. That’s it.
Why, then, am I so excited about the newly introduced Ford-150 pickup truck?
Because this is a story that combines several happy elements—good old American ingenuity, the importance of immigrants in our nation’s life and future, and real potential advances in both creating good new jobs and enhancing our efforts to protect the earth from climate change.
Here’s a clip of the President behind the wheel of the all-electric Ford-150 “Lightning” pickup truck—after he’d addressed UAW workers one day before the Lightning’s formal introduction. The truck is wrapped to hide its new exterior prior to that public showing.
He said in his speech that if he could “lose the Secret Service,” he hoped to drive the truck. And then he did, marveling at its extraordinary acceleration (0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds).
He didn’t lose the Secret Service, of course: one agent sat next to him, and others followed him as he reveled in the experience. “This sucker’s quick,” he told reporters.
Apart from his love of cars and trucks, Biden was there because this new vehicle can be a game changer—today’s equivalent of the original Model T, it’s been said—that will help further his agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote American manufacturing, and support unions.
Electric cars are key to this vision. In fact, his infrastructure plan includes incentives for buying electric vehicles and money to build the necessary electric charging stations (half a million of them) throughout the country.
Ford is the leader, but the company isn’t alone. General Motors has announced its goal to manufacture only electric vehicles by 2035. Its investment is comparable to the $22 billion that Ford has said it will devote to electric vehicles between now and 2025. GM expects to compete with Ford’s Lightning by electrifying its Silverado pickup truck.
So the days of the combustible engine appear to be nearing an end.
I caught a segment of Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show in which she covered Ford’s development. (She is a car aficionado.) After mentioning the huge companies like Nike and McDonald’s and Visa and all their billions, she segued:
“Do you want to know what`s bigger than any of those, though? This. This truck. I don`t mean like the Ford Motor Company has more revenue than McDonald`s and Visa and Nike, it does, but that`s not what I mean. I mean literally just this truck…
“More Ford F series pickups, they`re full-size pickups,…are sold than any other vehicle in the country and that is true every year, year after year, decade after decade. And it`s never even close.”
This single truck draws $42 billion in sales. According to a 2020 study, it accounts for 500,000 jobs for the Ford company, its dealerships, and parts manufacturers.
Maddow described the video below. In 2019, Ford did a “teaser” about this new all-electric wonder. They put 42 Ford pickup trucks (one for each year that the vehicle had been America’s best-selling pickup truck) alongside 10 double-decker freight train cars.
They then had a driver in the new Ford-150—the all-electric version of this best seller—tow the freight train.
The driver got out, and she (yes, it was a woman—an Asian-American woman, in fact) told her nearly incredulous crew that there was even more for them to see than the single truck pulling over a million pounds for a distance of 1,000 feet.
At that point, they loaded all 42 trucks into the freight train—and once again the woman driver effortlessly pulled what was now in excess of 1.25 million pounds. She said she could feel the difference, but she still drove her entire route without the truck stalling or blowing up or overheating or anything.
Placing this feat in context, Maddow observed that most truck ads “brag to the high heavens that their full-size pickups can tow 10,000 pounds or 15,000 pounds.”
And the “big reveal,” Maddow said, was that this remarkable achievement was all electric. And it could do what we’d witnessed because it’s all electric.
Not everyone will be sufficiently blown away to purchase one of these trucks because it’s Herculean. But it also has some really cool features—like a built-in generator, which Maddow points out could have come in very handy for Texans when their electrical grid was overwhelmed by an ice storm.
The truck could have been used to provide power to their homes. (Ford says the generator can power a home for three days.)
I won’t go into all the other features, but in each case, they are improvements over the previous model.
“Mass consumer adoption of a better product, when that product is already outselling everything else in its class by a mile for decades, that`s the kind of change that instantly renders everything else obsolete.”
Maddow introduced us to the driver who led that wild parade: Linda Zhang, Ford’s chief engineer on this project.
Zhang came to the US with her parents, both engineers, when she was 8. She spoke no English, learning the letters A through H on the plane from China. She joined Ford at the age of 19 and earned advanced degrees in electrical and computer engineering while working there.
I may be belaboring the obvious, but I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am that this potentially huge positive development for our country (and the world) has been guided by an Asian-American woman. A pickup truck! What could be more quintessentially American?
This story is simply the best balm for the vast majority of Americans who cringe at the anti-immigrant tirades, the attacks on Asian-Americans, the derogation of the role of women in our work force and national life.
Rachel Maddow tends to repeat herself for emphasis, but I think she’s pulled together the importance of Zhang’s project quite well.
“There isn`t a single thing that could be done in this country to move us further and faster toward a no gas automotive future and everything that means for infrastructure and climate and all the rest of it.
“There`s nothing that could move us further and faster toward that than this one vehicle, this specific vehicle, not only having an electric option but actually being better as an electric vehicle than it is as a gas one. Being more capable as an electric vehicle than it is as a gas one.”
So I join President Biden in cheering on the success of the spanking new Ford Lightning. I think it’s linked to why his programs are registering so well with the public. He’s thinking big, but he’s also staying within the comfort zone of the majority of Americans. Focus on a pickup truck that has wide appeal, but can be made even better, moving us forward, while remaining familiar.
That’s why the Republicans are having so much trouble demonizing him. He’s stretching beyond expectations, but with a shrewd understanding of just how far he can do that. Of course the conspiracy thinkers must have their say: “he’s not really driving the car; a Secret Service agent’s actually in control.” Once again, we’re told we should not believe our eyes. But the President moves on, showing us what good governing looks like, and so should we.
There’s already majority support for Biden’s American Jobs Plan among Democrats and Independents–58% according to one poll. If all Americans were receiving the same news, perhaps his plan would garner more than 19% Republican support.
The plan is far-reaching, but just this part of it–incentivizing the electrification of car and truck manufacturing, and purchasing–is likely to shorten the time toward creating the jobs that will bolster the economy and help us compete in the global marketplace.
This is wise use of the government’s role to help industry for the greater good.
In his efforts to be bipartisan, Biden just reduced the plan’s size to gain Republican support. I can’t see the party that’s vowed not to help him pass any legislation supporting this much-needed program.
The same dark money forces, led by Charles Koch, et al, who are determined to defeat S.1, the For the People Act to protect voting, are not about to allow passage of a bill that bids adieu to their gasoline profits.
I hope if/when the Republicans refuse to accept Biden’s compromise offer, the Democrats will pass the entire bill without them.
It could well do great things for fulfilling his administration’s promises, propelling this country forward in important ways. Not incidentally, it could also ensure his legacy as a transformational President.
And I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Linda Zhang’s name may also enter the history books for changing this country—perhaps even the world—for the better.
What do you think?