BMW and John Deere Tease Hybrid Backhoe Concept
Yep, that headline just happened…by Mark McNabb, on
Talk about an unconventional partnership producing an even more unconventional product. The legendary heavy equipment brand John Deere has teamed up with Designworks, a subsidiary of BMW, to create a hybrid backhoe built from futuristic materials and integrated high-tech features. It’s called the Fixstern, which in German means fixed star. Like navigating by the stars, the Fixstern will act as guidance and inspiration for John Deere’s future products.
The backhoe isn’t a reality just yet, but the concept is a test bed for out-of-the-box thinking. John Deere and Designworks set out with several goals: high functionality, reduce weight by 20 percent, decrease environmental impact by 10 percent, decrease manufacturing costs, improve the user experience, and to address changing market demands.
Meeting these expectations involves using lighter materials that are still extremely strong. The backhoe’s weight has been distributed lower along the extended wheelbase. Stabilizer bars on the front axle help with road-going stability and are rather rare on backhoes. Airless radial tires are said to further improve stability while being completely impervious to flats. The backhoe also features a “tuck” feature with its digging arm, giving it a shorter overall length for parking or on-road driving. The entire rear section, including the rear axle, is designed to pivot for tight maneuverability and is controlled by electronic four-wheel steering. Deere hasn’t divulged any details regarding that hybrid powertrain, however.
Deere also concentrated on making the operator happy. The cab is larger and its door is wider – both thanks to the longer wheelbase. The seat is also insulated from the backhoe’s frame for better vibration resistance. The in-dash tech includes communication with a fleet supervisor for preventative maintenance and the project supervisor for getting the construction job done right.
The Fixstern might not be pushing dirt anytime soon, but the ideas will likely evolve modern heavy equipment for the better.
Continue reading for more information.
Why It Matters
A futuristic backhoe might not be truck related, but the news goes to show just how technology is changing our world. Even humble construction equipment is getting hybrid powertrains, lightweight materials, and Internet connectivity. It’s amazing to see how times are progressing. It’s also because I’m a grown-up child who still fancies tractors, boats, cars, and airplanes.
This collaboration with John Deere isn’t Designworks’ first extra-automotive foray, either. The global company has projects ranging from in-ear headphone and cell phones to “adaptive” office furniture, public transportation, and motorcycle helmets with smart technology.
To quote Designworks’ website, it is “a creative consultancy working across multiple industries and focusing on mobility, product, and user experience design, as well as on strategic brand and design consulting.”
That helps explain the collaboration with John Deere. It will certainly be interesting to see what practical applications develop from this.