2023 brought a flurry of new technologies to the construction industry, from advances in excavation safety to alternative power solutions and progress in asphalt paving.
ConExpo served as the catalyst for many of these announcements, with nearly every major manufacturer teasing or showcasing their battery or hydrogen construction equipment, along with charging and fueling solutions.
Check out our list below to see the top 10 technology newsmakers of 2023 that appeared on equipmentworld.com, ordered by the greatest number of page views from the top down, with links provided if you want to read more.
Two inventions that some believe will be the most significant innovations for the asphalt screed in almost a century will be available through Caterpillar, thanks to two brothers who run a family-owned paving business in Wyoming.
Cat purchased the intellectual property rights to Axenox’s Oxclaw textured screed plates and Bullox modular screed plate attachment system. The products will be offered exclusively through its dealer network.
For the first time, John Deere brought a piece of construction equipment to the CES show, most often reserved for tech companies showing off their latest gadgets.
There, the company unveiled its first ever electric excavator, the 145 X-Tier.
Rodradar has developed the world’s first excavator bucket with ground penetrating radar for detecting buried utilities in real time.
Rodradar demonstrated the device, which it calls Live Dig Radar Excavate, at ConExpo in March. It can detect utilities of all types – gas, electric, water, sewer, fiber, including those with PVC pipe – and displays their depth and distance on a touchscreen tablet mounted in the excavator’s cab.
Touting improved torque and fuel consumption, John Deere unveiled its concept version of an 850 X-Tier E-Drive dozer at ConExpo.
“This machine is a dual-path electric-drive machine, meaning that it starts with our 9-liter diesel engine,” said Kat Roberts, product manager dozers & crawler loaders, John Deere Construction & Forestry Division.
“We’ve got a generator and inverters that go to two electric-drive motors connected to our final drives that make the machine move.”
On top of a dirt hill at ConExpo, a Develon operator-less excavator performed intricate grading maneuvers with a tiltrotator. Then below, the company’s autonomous dozer traveled around moving its blade to the contours of the ground.
The demonstration – shown in the above video – gave audiences the first look at Develon’s latest advancement in autonomous and remote-control technology. The first Concept X demonstration was shown to media in 2019 in South Korea, with a standard Doosan Infracore excavator and wheel loader working without operators. At the time, Doosan presented models of what the concept machines would look like and then followed up in 2022 at the Consumer Electric Show as the newly formed Hyundai Doosan Infracore with an autonomous conceptual display.
Now as Develon, Concept-X2 appeared in real life at ConExpo 2023, showing off the new brand’s glimpse of what it calls “The Future of Construction Jobsites.”
Unveiled at ConExpo, the Bobcat RogueX combines technologically advanced features to make it a one-of-a-kind conceptual machine. While most closely resembling a track loader, the machine is in a category all its own.
As a research and development project, the machine was built as a proving ground to advance the Bobcat innovation roadmap, evaluate customer perceptions and test the limits of machine functionality.
Battery-operated, the machine can be controlled with Bobcat MaxControl and is intended to have the capability of some autonomous functions. Strictly a concept machine, it is intended to help Bobcat engineers continue down more paths of finding new solutions for contractors.
The company has started proof of concept tests and is accelerating its efforts to begin commercial production of medium- and large-sized construction equipment powered by hydrogen fuel cells “in the near future.”
For the new concept machine, Komatsu collaborated with Toyota Motor Corporation in the adoption of a hydrogen fuel cell system and hydrogen tank to fit with the company’s medium hydraulic excavator. Combining Toyota’s fuel cell system with its control technology and components, Komatsu is hoping to achieve zero exhaust emission and a significant reduction in noise and vibration.
Calling the technology a game-changer that will lead the company’s zero-carbon emissions solutions for agricultural and construction equipment, the totally redesigned engine replaces diesel fuel with hydrogen gas.
“This is brand new combustion technology,” says Ryan Ballard, engineering director, powertrain, for JCB. “We kept the DNA of the engine; the only difference is the fuel, which is clean-burning hydrogen gas.”
JCB Chairman Lord Bamford is leading the project to develop JCB’s hydrogen technology. “The JCB engineering team has made enormous strides in a short space of time to develop a hydrogen internal combustion engine, and it already powers a JCB prototype backhoe loader and a Loadall telescopic handler. As the first construction equipment company to develop a fully working combustion engine fueled by hydrogen.”
No charging station, no problem. This fall, Stellantis touted its all-new 2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger as an electric pickup with “unlimited” range, thanks to a battery pack paired with a gas-powered generator that kicks in to charge the battery once it’s depleted.
While “unlimited range” might be a stretch, the 690 miles the Ramcharger can travel on a full charge and a full tank is impressive, considering the size and towing capacity of the truck. It’s a stat worthy of some head turns for those sitting on the EV fence with range anxiety. The other big advantage is, if you run out of battery power and run low on gas while on the road, you can pull into a gas station and run on gasoline until the battery recharges or you get time to plug in.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation reports success from using an asphalt mixture that prevents cracking, what some call “self-healing” asphalt.
ODOT used a crack attenuating mixture (CAM) on a repaving project in 2012 on I-40 in Caddo County. Eleven years later, the 2-mile section has an International Roughness Index that averages 50 inches per mile, “which is smooth enough to result in ride quality bonuses for new construction in some states,” according to the Federal Highway Administration. A good IRI is considered to be less than 95 inches per mile.
“CAM’s flexibility can help prevent a crack from coming up through to the surface,” says Oklahoma Asphalt Paving Association Executive Director Larry Patrick.
CAM was used in combination with ODOT’s highly modified asphalt binder as an intermediate layer on the I-40 project. That project has been nominated for a Perpetual Pavement by Conversion Award from the Asphalt Pavement Alliance.