More Automakers Embracing LED Technology

Once found on only luxury vehicles, light-emitting diodes or LEDs are now being offered on a number of mass produced autos including the 2012 Kia Soul.

LED’s are now less expensive to make, and automotive designers favor them because their compact size and intensity opens up new design opportunities.

L.E.K. Consulting of London predicts that up to 29 percent of the automobiles made in North America will be equipped with LED taillights by model year 2016, up from only 19 percent this model year.

The company predicts that only about one percent of those vehicles will have LED headlights and about 12 percent will be equipped with xenon headlamps.

The 2000 Cadillac DeVille was the first American-made vehicle to feature LED technology. The DeVille was equipped with LED taillights and a center-mounted brake light. A number of other luxury models soon followed suit. A number of Audi models have been equipped with both LED taillights and daytime running headlights.

In general, automakers have been slower to adopt LED headlights due to their higher cost. Conventional halogen headlights cost, on average, about $20 per unit and xenon headlights can cost between $60 and $80 per unit.

Xenon headlights were introduced in 1991 by BMW on its 7-series sedan.  Despite the higher cost, the technology has enjoyed strong demand, especially in Japan.  L.E.K. estimates that approximately 38 percent of vehicles built in Japan are equipped with Xenon headlights.  In Europe, about 20 percent of vehicles feature Xenon headlamps while in North America, only about 10 percent of vehicles are equipped with them.

Visteon Corporation’s lighting director Rainer Neumann says that some U.S. consumers object to the bluish light produced by Xenon headlights.

LED headlights can cost automakers up to three times as much, but create a much warmer, natural-looking light than Xenon headlights.

Hella KGaA Hueck & Company supplies the LED lights for Audi. According to the company’s VP of marketing, Steffen Pietzonka, LED taillights are now a “style statement” for many automakers. He said, “Over the next four years, a lot of entry-level and mid-sized vehicles will have LEDs. It offers huge styling opportunities.”

Another example of the creative opportunities afforded by LED lights is the Dodge Charger which features full-width taillights – a dramatic look that has become synonymous with the brand.

In addition to being more stylish, LED brake lights also offer enhanced safety for motorists. The illuminate within 200 milliseconds of being activated by the brake pedal being depressed which gives the drivers of trailing vehicles more time to react.

LED headlights are also more energy-efficient than their halogen and Xenon counterparts and last considerably longer –   up to 10 times longer than conventional halogen lights.

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