Light bulb technology has evolved. Halogen bulbs used in most of the cars once represented the epitome of refinement in light bulb technology. Nevertheless, they have now reached the end of their life cycle. LED lighting represents the future of auto headlamps.
LED Headlights work on an entirely different principle than that of halogen bulbs. They have no filament. LEDs operate by transferring current through a semi-conductor. This movement of electrons through a semi-conductor emits photons producing light, making LEDs a lot more efficient than halogen bulbs. Comparatively they also generate significantly less heat and offer better durability. Operating temperature of the LEDs if maintained within a reasonable zone, they could even run indefinitely. For this reason manufacturers claim 20,000+ hours of operating life of LED headlamps. LEDs require a lower voltage than halogens and give a brighter and whiter light. An added plus is the flexibility of altering the colour by changing the physical properties of the semi-conductor.
LED auto lighting systems technology although in its infancy, is fast evolving. Over time the existing limitations would be soon overcome. Today, although just a few premium auto brands and variants come retrofitted with LED lamps from the manufacturer, trends indicate a paradigm shift in the not so distant future. LED auto lighting systems are currently under development for OE as well as the aftermarket.
Like any industry, the LED space too is passing through its initial turbulence. There exist design and manufacturing challenges that need to be overcome. In snowy conditions, the heat from the halogen bulbs was actually an advantage in keeping snow and ice from collecting on the headlight lenses. Some manufacturers are working on separate heating elements to melt accumulating snow. The trade war and imposed tariffs on LED products have also affected the industry. LED manufacturers worldwide are however taking the necessary steps to meet these short term challenges.
Although headlights are mostly required under poor lighting and low visibility conditions, automotive manufacturers have recognized the importance of front running lights for improving how well other drivers can spot your vehicle. Some cars by default have the low beam headlights on at all times. Some high end cars are provided with a full or partial ring of LED lights around the periphery of the normal headlight. These rings are also a common aftermarket modification, also referred to as ‘angel eyes’. LEDs are ideal for this application because the cooler colour temperature of highly efficient LEDs shows up even under full sun, and they are able to operate with relatively little power. Full headlights are typically in use for a low enough percentage of the time that efficiency is not a core concern, but running lights are literally designed to be on whenever the vehicle is running. Running 10W LEDs reduces battery load, thus increasing your battery life. In the final analysis, LEDs represent the future. The day isn’t far when LED lighting becomes standard across the auto industry.