Las Vegas, Nevada - BMW’s Design Works consultancy doesn’t only work on cars and motorcycles; this is its vision of the backhoe of the future, developed in collaboration with John Deere for the triennial Construction and Agricultural Expo, on now in Las Vegas.
The idea is to use newly-developed materials and technology as part of a holistic design process called Fixstern (fixed star), which starts off several steps into the future, creating a focal point that the designer and the customer can work towards.
The fixed star in this case was a backhoe just as capable and robust as current John Deere equipment, but at least 20 percent lighter, with an environmental impact of at least 10 percent less, a bigger, more comfortable cabin - and that was cheaper to make.
A big ask.
So they started with a matrixed exoskeleton made of rectangular light-metal sections, rather than a heavy chassis with all the mechanical and body parts bolted on top of it.
That way they were able to hang the hybrid powertrain under the floor, lowering the centre of gravity, improving forward visibility and reducing weight still further - as do the airless radial tyres and electric four-wheel steering, rather than conventional hydraulics.
They extended the wheelbase using forward stabilisers, improving stability and making possible a bigger cabin with wider openings and fewer obstructions, that’s it easier to get into and out of, with more storage space and better visibility.
The exoskeleton also forms a built-in rollover cage, and makes it possible to isolate the seat and controls from the main structure, significantly reducing vibration and noise.
And of course the backhoe of the future will be more “intelligent”, thanks to broadened connectivity for both operation and real-time training, as well as improved communication between the operator and the project manager, and between the machine itself and the workshop, so it can book itself in for predictive maintenance, reducing downtime and improving fleet management.